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Discussion Starter #1
I've always loved to play tug of war with my dogs, finding that if done in moderation and selectively, it is a great release for pent-up energy. Lately, though, I've read some articles discouraging the practice, warning it may build up aggression in a dog. What's your take on this?

With my most recent adopted pooch, I'm mixing in tug of war play every couple of days (putting the toy away afterwards, to signal it's mine), and so far, I'm not seeing any aggression building up. I've also found it useful to train the "leave it" command: after a bout of tugging, I slacken the line, say "leave it," and trade for a treat and/or reward with praise when she lets go. I think it's also working well because she's not given to hard pulling--sometimes I have to tease her with the tug/rope toy to get her to start.

Yesterday, while building a tarp setup (for her, to shield her cover patio when the rare SoCal rain comes), she went for the tarp to pull on it. I said leave it, and she stopped short--so she's getting it! (Note: we've also practiced the command while playing fetch.)

What are your thoughts on this?
 

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My thoughts are that it's a game, it's a useful reward and training tool (impulse control, as well as leave it), and that putting it up to 'show it's yours' is the silliest thing I've read in a long time. I put up the toy too, though, so whatever ( I put it up to end the game, to keep from being nagged, and so the 30.00 tug toys don't get shredded.)
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
My thoughts are that it's a game, it's a useful reward and training tool (impulse control, as well as leave it), and that putting it up to 'show it's yours' is the silliest thing I've read in a long time. I put up the toy too, though, so whatever ( I put it up to end the game, to keep from being nagged, and so the 30.00 tug toys don't get shredded.)
Yeah, I give you it may be silly, my overreaction to these articles I've read about aggression and possessiveness. Probably overthinking on my part. Years ago, I did make the mistake with my first pooch (a Cocker) to make my own tug-of-war toy out of an old white sock and tennis ball. From that point on, anything that looked remotely like it was hers. I lost a few good white socks that way, and even had to rescue my toes a couple of times. :D

ETA: Incidentally, recently I have seen the tug of war thing go awry (also feeding into my overreaction, perhaps) with a Yorkshire Terrier. She goes for your hand when you're playing tug of war, so definitely asserting possession, there. Of course, I haven't trained her, and her "parents" are a tad clueless in that department. The toy is also way too short, IMO, so that's part of the problem, too.
 

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Tug is just an instinct many dogs have. It's a game to them. Sure, Ralphie has caught my hand a few times when he's lunging for the toy when he was younger, but he quickly learned that such things ended the game while I went and patched up my hand. It was an accident by a clumsy puppy. Now he knows "drop", "leave it", and can "wait" while I wiggle the toy until I release him to attack it.

Dogs do not understand possessions like we do. Putting it away does not signal it is yours, so I wouldn't worry about any negative reactions if you forget and leave it out. The toy might be shredded, though. All he knows is the toy is fun to play with, but it is out of his reach now so he can't get to it.
 

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I've never really held to the theory that playing tug increases aggression. I find it a useful tool for teaching impulse control at best, and at worst, just a fun game with my dog. I love to tug with my dog - she growls and shakes her head and sounds for all the world like she wants to kill the thing, but when I want her to stop she stops. As others have said, it's a game and one that is ingrained in them (most dogs anyway). Unless things really escalate and actual biting starts happening, I don't see the big deal with playing tug.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Tug is just an instinct many dogs have. It's a game to them. Sure, Ralphie has caught my hand a few times when he's lunging for the toy when he was younger, but he quickly learned that such things ended the game while I went and patched up my hand. It was an accident by a clumsy puppy.
To clarify... there's a difference between a miss when first lunging for the toy vs. lunging for your hand in the middle of tug play (after she's already latched onto the toy). The latter is a way to get you to lose by letting go--and I wouldn't think that's a good thing, especially if it transfers to other objects not intended for tug-play.
 

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Kris and Bonnie play tug with each other all the time, lots of play growling and chasing when one gets it. I encourage most of my dogs to play tug with me except for Kris as she just pulls too hard. When I throw the tug she chases it and brings it back and hands it to me. I know they are really enjoying the game when they are growling and their tails are going 100 miles and hour.
 

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I use games of tug as rewards more than I use food with the rottie I run agility with. He has two leashes that are made to tug with and I use them all the time as tug toys at the end of agility runs when we show. I use tug game for him to release frustration back at me while we're waiting our turn to run agility. Tug is a strong part of my training with Ocean.

Ocean has a lot of play drive (more so than food drive) so I use that to my advantage. He comes from IPO/Schutzhund lines....and the IPO crowd want dogs to have strong play/ball/tug drives. Instead of fighting against that...I embrace it in my training. ;) He actually does not resource guard toys with people because giving a toy to a person is much more fun for him than just keeping it for himself. Do my hands end up bleeding? Yup. I actually carry boxes of band-aids in my training bags for those times he connects with my hands...but those accidents are much fewer and farther between now that he's almost 5. When he was younger, I did a lot of bleeding while working him. But training to be more careful when gripping a tug is possible but it takes some time to teach.

I think with something like playing tug and those articles that say it fosters aggression...you have to look at your individual dog and their temperament. I think if there are clearly defined rules of engagement with tug games like you say when you play....you say when it's over...sometimes you win...sometimes the dog wins, that will help manage the game in a way that trouble can be avoided. Are there some dogs out there that playing tug may not be a good idea? Probably, but I think there are a bunch of factors that may play into that decision of not playing tug. Those things are the relationship between the dog and the handler, are there other dogs/animals near by while playing tug, & are there clear rules to the tug games.
 

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To clarify... there's a difference between a miss when first lunging for the toy vs. lunging for your hand in the middle of tug play (after she's already latched onto the toy). The latter is a way to get you to lose by letting go--and I wouldn't think that's a good thing, especially if it transfers to other objects not intended for tug-play.
I have literally never seen a dog do this. Except perhaps a resource guarder, which - why are you playing tug with a resource guarding dog, with a resource they're guarding?
 

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To clarify... there's a difference between a miss when first lunging for the toy vs. lunging for your hand in the middle of tug play (after she's already latched onto the toy). The latter is a way to get you to lose by letting go--and I wouldn't think that's a good thing, especially if it transfers to other objects not intended for tug-play.
I would consider that resource guarding rather than biting you to make you lose. Dogs have a very give-take approach to play. Nobody "loses". Dogs with a stable temperament will not intentionally bite another dog or person hard enough to "make them lose" in a game scenario because that would instantly end the game. If this occurs, the dog has a pre-existing behavioral issue. Either that, or the dog has not been taught proper bite inhibition or has been encouraged to play with people's hands like toys.
 

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I would consider that resource guarding rather than biting you to make you lose. Dogs have a very give-take approach to play. Nobody "loses". Dogs with a stable temperament will not intentionally bite another dog or person hard enough to "make them lose" in a game scenario because that would instantly end the game. If this occurs, the dog has a pre-existing behavioral issue. Either that, or the dog has not been taught proper bite inhibition or has been encouraged to play with people's hands like toys.
Yeah, I mean. Seriously. Dogs playing together? One 'loses'/gets pinned/gets caught/gets the toy. You know what happens? The dog who 'won' backs off and becomes the one being chased, waits for the dog who got pinned wrestling to get up and pounce on them back, or they loop back to shove the toy in their face again so tug can resume. They don't go all out to "win" any game. If they're doing that there's a problem. Resource guarding, dog on dog aggression, the dog's being made defensive, something, but that's not how dogs interact with other dogs or humans.

And speaking of humans you know what happens when I 'lose' a game of tug with Molly (ie: she gets the toy)? She shoves it back in my hand so she can TUG. Running off with the thing isn't her objective. I know it is for some dogs, but she's not one of them.
 

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Okay....if a dog starts gripping up the toy and starts to bite my hands and it's not an accident, with my dogs...that would get them a strong verbal correction and the game ends immediately. That's a cardinal sin rule of our tug games....don't you dare alligator your way up the tug onto my hands. Again, that depends on the dog...my dogs can take a hard verbal correction and get over it.
 

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Oh, the alligatoring up thing is something Bug does. That's a little different than lunging after my hands/biting to make me stop playing in my mind, it's just (for her anyway) trying to get a better grip and chomping higher. Truthfully all I do there is let go and walk off.

But I do play tug with rules. That rule being I start it, you out when I tell you to. That's really about it, though. The other tuggy dogs aren't inclined to 'chew their way up' the toy. Bug just... does that. Always has. She doesn't want the thing, she doesn't want to win, she just has a crappy mouth for holding on and loves tug, I think.
 

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But I do play tug with rules. That rule being I start it, you out when I tell you to. That's really about it, though. The other tuggy dogs aren't inclined to 'chew their way up' the toy. Bug just... does that. Always has. She doesn't want the thing, she doesn't want to win, she just has a crappy mouth for holding on and loves tug, I think.
Those are more or less the rules of my tug games too. O doesn't alligator his way up the tugs anymore. When he was younger...he would clack - clack - clack his way up the tug to my hands. He's my black and tan malinois. LOL He will try to grab tugs without permission because he just wants to play tug so bad. He did bite me in the boob once at an agility trial a couple of years ago when I had a tug under my arm and I bent over to change the height on the practice jump. He went to grab the tug when it was face level and he grabbed me hard in the process. The OOOOWWWWWWW! I shouted out was enough to get him to drop it immediately. The bruise that came after that grab was impressive. LOL He wasn't grabbing it because he was being aggressive, or resource guard....he just wanted to play more tug with me. O's impulse control has gotten better since then. LOL

I haven't seen a dog bite someone purposefully to get them to drop something....if that was the case, I would say the dog has zero respect for their owner. That's what I was talking about the relationship between the dog and the owner in my previous post.
 

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Tuggie leash reward in action:




 

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Oh, the alligatoring up thing is something Bug does. That's a little different than lunging after my hands/biting to make me stop playing in my mind, it's just (for her anyway) trying to get a better grip and chomping higher. Truthfully all I do there is let go and walk off.

But I do play tug with rules. That rule being I start it, you out when I tell you to. That's really about it, though. The other tuggy dogs aren't inclined to 'chew their way up' the toy. Bug just... does that. Always has. She doesn't want the thing, she doesn't want to win, she just has a crappy mouth for holding on and loves tug, I think.
Ralphie was terrible when he first came to us. I had HUGE scratches and wounds on my hands from it. He would jump at the toy, miss the toy, and chomp my hands instead. All it took was yelping very loudly and kind of whimpering, completely involuntarily because it really did hurt, haha, and then walking away. He learned. He does get confused when I'm wearing bulky gloves, but that dog can fly at me 100 mph now with open jaws and snag the toy and not me, lol.

He shoves the toy back in my hand if he "wins", too. I wonder if dogs even have a concept of "win" and "lose"? I'm of the mind that they just understand "fun" and "not fun" haha.
 

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Yeah, my theory is the reasoning kind of goes "I've got the toy but without a person on the other end it does nothing. TAKE IT BACK WANT TO PLAY".
 

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Yeah, my theory is the reasoning kind of goes "I've got the toy but without a person on the other end it does nothing. TAKE IT BACK WANT TO PLAY".
This is total Ocean logic. ;)
 

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Tug has not been an aggression-builder in my experience. I taught tug to Fergus, who then taught it to Barclay. Now Barclay will grab a toy to entice Fergus to play and they tug all over the livingroom. I think they now prefer playing tug with each other. They are matched in size so it works well. Both like to do that "alligatoring" with me, and after the second attempt, I'm out of the game.
 
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