It’s fun to interact with your dog. It helps to cement the bond between the two of you. But these are two games you shouldn’t play, especially in the beginning of your relationship.
THE “CATCH ME” GAME
Not talking about a ball or a dog toy here. I’m talking about important things (to you) - the remote, eyeglasses, your wallet, cell phone, those nice shoes you bought last week, your favorite slippers . . . . The list goes on. Another name for this would be KEEP AWAY. Do dogs ever love it. And it’s so easy to get sucked into playing it.
When bringing in a new puppy or dog, be sure to puppy proof your house. And never assume a dog won’t touch something because the former owner, breeder or rescue worker told you not to worry. Frankly, why put yourself and Phydo into that situation until you’ve worked on more basic behaviors and understand each other better? I’d wait a bit.
Be careful of using food when you’re trying to bribe the little darling to give up your cell phone, remote, or whatever the pup has managed to steal. That’s like giving a reward for being a thief. You can bet Phydo is going to remember that and do it again at his first opportunity.
TUG OF WAR
A simple concept that can quickly make you, the human, low man on the totem pole in the household, especially with a pushy dog.
Remember that dogs are social animals, a pack member who now lives in YOUR home in YOUR pack.
Dogs don’t complicate things. We humans do. If Phydo wants to be leader, he or she is going to do his or her best to find a way to be number one. This is okay in some dogs, but can create issues in others. However here, we’re talking about the dog who wants to be number one.
So what does this have to do with TUG OF WAR?
Unfortunately, it gets your dog ramped up, nor is it a good form of exercise. But when you are at the other end of that rope, dog toy or silk tie, your dog is challenging you for top dog position, whether you realize it or not. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Chihuahua or a Rottweiler. Size doesn't matter to them.
Then there’s the pack issue. Let’s say things are going along fairly well for the two of you - you at one end of the rope, the dog on the other, but you are getting tired of the game or have to leave. How do you end it? Rip it out of Phydo’s mouth? I hope not, since that certainly doesn’t encourage calm behavior. Then there are those who just drop the rope and walk away.
AH, HA! Who is the keeper of the rope now? Phydo is beside himself with joy. He won! You might not think so, but he does.
In one of my class orientations, I had a man come to me ,who had bossy dog problems. He couldn’t understand the concept, and proudly told me he always played TUG, and that he and his Husky loved it, and he didn’t see the problem.
I asked him how he ended each game.
“I let go and just walk away,” he replied proudly.
“Exactly,” I stated. “And who was left with the rope?”
That was when the light bulb went off. “Oh, no!, he exclaimed, realizing what message he had given his dog. “I’ve been losing for six years!”
And he was. Long story short, once the owner stopped letting his Husky “win,” life became more manageable and a lot more enjoyable at home, even within the next few weeks. The man’s dog kept trying to get him to engage, but he refused, and the dog soon got the message - dad is top dog.
Simple, but that’s how dogs think “simple.” Be careful you aren’t confusing the issue.
WHEN TO DO TUG: I don’t recommend doing TUG with your dog in the beginning and there have been times when I suggest never, but that’s not often.
Now, if two dogs want to play TUG that’s fine, provided it doesn’t get out of hand.
WHEN PLAYING TUG WITH YOUR DOG, you should first teach your dog a calm, solid release. I don’t recommend the label of “leave it.” It’s overused and becomes a crutch for people, which can create other issues. "Drop" is popular, but it's your choice. I also recommend teaching play manners so that fingers don't get grabbed or pinched. This goes for anytime you're playing with your dog.