Tug-of-war, a favorite game for many dogs, including mine, Teddy, isn’t a favorite with all trainers.
Some believe the game can create aggressive behaviors.
Still others believe there are possible advantages.
After consulting the experts, I saw the game’s potential for Teddy.
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It depends on my family — our willingness to teach Teddy how to play tug-of-war correctly.
The internet is full of suggestions on the best way to play tug-of-war with a dog.
Jolanta Benal, www.quickanddirtytips.com, says the first rule is teaching the dog a release command. If the dog starts to get aggressive, telling him to drop the toy stops the game and the behavior.
Teddy is not aggressive by nature. He’ll usually give up a toy easily. If not, a carrot stick or dog treat will do the trick.
Jenna Stregowski, www.thespruce.com, writes that dogs may growl when playing. That’s an instinctual reaction. The game is stopped if the dog’s growl becomes aggressive.
Teddy’s usually doesn’t growl during tug-of-war.
He’s more of a strategy player. The pooch tries to move up his grip on the toy so his opponent will loosen his.
Finally, Susan Paretts of The Daily Puppy website (www.dailypuppy.com ) says the owner starts the game not the dog. Owners may want to give their dogs a cue or permission to grab the toy to start the tugging.
We play a hybrid version of tug-of-war, or the “fetch-shake-tug-chew” game.
The game starts when my husband Ed, daughter Jordan or I wave the toy in the air.
Teddy excitedly runs to that person. He is told to wait. Then the toy is thrown.
When given the OK, the pooch goes after it like laser-guided rocket.
Teddy pounces on the toy and then prances back to one of us tail, wagging, rump wiggling, and toy shaking the entire way.
Ed’s usually Teddy’s first choice. Alpha male nonsense.
When the prancer reaches Ed, he tells his “boy” to drop it.
When Teddy does, the toy is presented to him again and the tugging begins.
Teddy grips the toy as if his life depended on it. Ed pulls the pooch all over the room.
The minute Ed loosens his grip or looks away, Teddy springs into action.
The clever lab uses one of his front paws to push the toy closer to the floor.
He’ll try to move in a different direction to loosen Ed’s grip.
When Teddy gets the toy away from Ed (we usually let the dog win), he’ll strut around the room shaking it in the air.
Then the game is started all over again.
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I’ll admit it’s a weird game. But my family doesn’t like going down a straight path, and neither does Teddy.
After we finish the game, the toy is inspected, and if it is chewed to pieces, it is unceremoniously thrown out.
We can do this because my 86-year-old mom makes Teddy his “fetch-shake-tug-chew” toys. We have a drawer filled with them.
And as long as Teddy’s “grandmom” is willing to keep him well stocked with the toys, we’ll continue to play our version of the game.
Karin Spicer, a magazine writer, has been entertaining families for more than 20 years. She lives in Bellbrook with her family and two furry animals all who provide inspiration for her work. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to make
What: Teddy’s toy for “fetch-shake-tug-chew” game
Use: Heavy duty fabric; two pieces stitched in 2-inch-wide by 16-inch-long strips; One end tied in knot for easy gripping by human opponent.