Choose your dog services carefully.
The UK as the animal loving nation that is it known for has lead the way in animal welfare changes for the last century, so you would anticipate the statistics regarding animal welfare issues to have decreased with it?. However between 2013 and 2015 3000 people were convicted of animal cruelty but only 7 % of these received a custodial sentence. (RSPCA 2018) in 2018 the RSPCA rescued more than 102900 animals and investigated a total of 130700 cruelty complaints only 1678 of these cases resulted in prosecution. So have the changes in legislation helped pet welfare?
A BBC report stated that in 2009 Battersea Dogs home euthanized a total of 2815 dogs 1931 of these for behavioural and temperament issues. BBC (2010),
Are the laws promoting awareness or are they part of the problem?
As The Animal Welfare Act 2006 now pushes the responsibility for duty of care, more and more people are seeking the help of ‘professionals’ as the vast majority of dog owners are aware that training and exercise are vital to ensure a well balanced happy dog that can be integrated into society.
So why are there so many dogs that need help with behaviour problems. The canine world is a confusing place, for dogs, owners and people that work within it. Media ‘experts’ are all over our screens now, each dishing out their own approach to solving problems. This is still an unregulated field and there is no single professional governing body to ensure certain standards are adhered to. In the hands of an inexperienced or misled professional the very issues the dogs are displaying can become exaggerated to the point the dog is surrendered and or put to sleep.
Under the Animal Welfare act this ‘professional’ does have an obligation to work within the guide lines of this law. So any walker, pet sitter, trainer or behaviourist that works with a dog has a responsibility for not only the dog, but also its actions whilst under their instruction! They also have a duty of care to ensure the dogs welfare needs are met and that it does not unnecessarily suffer. While working with a fearful dog if the wrong approach is taken or the correct programme rushed the dog could very likely be subjected to unnecessary suffering in the form of stress or fear, and the ‘professional’ will be held responsible for it. This responsibility reaches further than just the basic needs of the dog. The Control of Dogs Order 1992, states a collar must be worn with adequate detail whilst the dog is in a public place if the dog has no owner details whilst in the custody of a another person then they will be accountable. As is the same under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 section 3 clearly states that a dangerously out of control dog in public place is a criminal offence and whomever is in charge of the dog at the time will be deemed accountable for its actions.
“BUT MY DOG WOULDN’T HURT ANYONE” I hear you say and you are probably correct however you need to understand what defines a dog as dangerously out of control. The Control of dogs order defines a dangerously out of control dog as:
A dog that not just injures someone which you would expect but one that a person has grounds for reasonable apprehension that it may do so. The implications of this are momentous, if training or walking a reactive dog a member of the public comes to close and the dog lunges barking at them even though they have not made contact with that person and the situation has been controlled very quickly, The dog can still be reported as it could be deemed to have caused the person a reasonable apprehension that it may injure them. This could lead to the dog being seized. Even something as everyday as a dog chasing, barking or jumping up at someone could lead to a complaint. If the dog happened to break free and injure a member of the public during a session this would mean the dog may never be returned home to it family and could very likely be destroyed.
Safety and understanding of the implication of the law need to be the main priority for anyone working with dogs. Ability to interpret canine body language and continually managing the environment you are working within will reduce the risks and likelihood of any incident happening.
Professionals taking money for services from the public have a duty of care not only to ensure they abide by the law but they understand the implication if things go wrong and to also explain and assist you the owner as the same situation could quite easily happen. Did you know that your dog jumping up to say hello could get your lovable pup reported as a dangerous dog more importantly does the person you are paying know!
BBC (2010) Press Office, Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk (Accessed: 28/05/2019).
RSPCA. (2019) Facts and figures, Available at: http://www.rspca.org.uk (Accessed: 28/05/2019).
the national archives (2019) The Dangerous dogs act 1991, Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk (Accessed: 25/05/2019).
Dog on dog aggression is one of the most common behaviour problems that owners face, Dr Ian Dunbar states that the major reason why dogs become aggressive toward other dogs is that during their puppy-hood, dogs are often deprived of adequate socialisation with other good-natured dogs. As a result, many pups grow up with poor social skills, unable to ‘read’ other dogs and exchange subtle communication signals with them. So how can we ensure our dogs don’t end up one of these statistics? Socialisation clearly, but what does that mean? There are many misconceptions around this, one that I hear a great deal is ‘but we have other dogs’ having other dogs will not teach your puppy how to greet and play with dogs he has only just met! In fact, it could even make him worse. Do you greet your family in the same way you greet a stranger? All dogs just like us have their own individual characters, some need loads of exercise and love boisterous play others not so much, some like to play chase games some don’t want to play or even to say hello! Your pup needs to understand this and know how to interact with every dog.
Regular contact with playmates is necessary for dogs to develop social confidence. Sign up to a puppy class or find a small day centre that offers puppy mornings, your local vets may even have puppy parties. All interaction needs to be supervised to ensure they are positive socialisation experiences.
Follow us on facebook – watch our events page for upcoming social walks and training. http://www.facebook.com/doghampton
You need to be very fit for this.
You need to own a working type dog.
It is not suitable for pets
I wont fit in
My dog is too nervous to take part
All the above are false, One of the best trailing dogs I have seen is a Chihuahua called Flynn, (I think I have fallen in love with him)!! Most dogs can join in, any age and breed. We can make the trails suitable to you and your dog, for the adventurous we will aim towards woodland and cross country trails. For the less adventurous shorter trails on paths, grass areas and sometimes pubs!
If you think you are you ready for a fun new dog sport, but still unsure of signing up. Why not try an introduction day? 2 to 3 hours in a fab location, It will give you the chance to see how we work and whether this is for you.
WHAT IS MANTRAILING?
‘Mantrailing’ is the search for a specific person know as a runner (dont worry you dont have to run) by you and your dog. The dog is given the scent of the runner from a piece of their clothing (normally gloves or scarf) this if where we rely on the dogs amazing sense of smell and their instinctive behaviour to follow the direction the ‘runner’ went and eventually find them.
My dog cant do that Ill look like a fool
All dogs can. Some just take longer to learn the basics.
DO I NEED LOADS OF EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT?
We supply all that you require for the introduction session. As you move on through the levels, we can advise on dog equipment which is generally just a suitable harness and long lead (5 meters).
What personal equipment do I need?
Outdoor clothing, good outdoor footwear and possibly waterproofs for our lovely British weather!
Why trail with your dog?
1.Strengthens the bond and trust between you and your dog by working together to solve the problem.
2. Can help nervous dogs become more confident
3.Builds self-assurance, self-motivation, independence because they have to think for themselves.
4. Reduces stress and anxiety by the release of happy hormones.
5. Even if your dog has no recall it can still take part.
6. All breeds can join in
7 Teaches you to read your dogs body language
We work after the Kocher Method and only ever use positive reinforcement,
Rewarding teamwork and a knowledgeable Instructor is waiting to take you on your incredible journey.
Please check out our facebook page for upcoming events
The blood pounded in my ears the deafening echo of my heart filled my head making it impossible to think, my breathing so rapid I can’t get the oxygen I need to stop the panic I can feel bubbling up inside me.
The figure from the distance still running straight at me, My vision disfigured through the panic as if looking through a fish-eye lens. I have to get away I have to escape this creature who has me firmly in its sights. My friend has hold of me reassuring me that everything is ok, but I feel trapped and scared, overwhelmed by fear too much to even understand the words she is saying. And then it’s upon me, it’s hot breath in my face, the heady smell of it drowning out everything. I twist and turn trying to escape but she holds me tighter telling me it’s all going to be fine. My breathing is so hard, with every lung full reeking of his scent as if choking me with his stench.
If cry out in fear with my chest growing tight and still he is there breathing on my neck touching me taunting me. If I do nothing I will die! My instinct to survive takes over and I sink my teeth into him!
The ordeal is finally over I can breath again. But my friend is shouting I’m a ‘bad dog’ and “he just wanted to play”.
Running straight into the face of an unknown dog is NOT ‘FRIENDLY’.
It is rude and confrontational.
Any dog can be rude occasionally, they are animals but as owners we need to understand their world better and help them interact, after all many of these behaviours are because we have intervened in the natural interactions between dogs,
When we restrict our dog’s options to move away from something scary, we often remove the “flight option.” This leaves the dog few other choices, and one of them is often the “fight option.”
Never allow your dog to run up to another unless the owners have said its ok too, and even then remember that things can quickly change between dogs. My suggestion is the 3 second rule. Three seconds is the maximum amount of time the first meeting should last between dogs. This is more than enough time for the dog’s nose to have taken in and process an immense amount of information. Never pull your dog away as we don’t want either dog thinking there is anything negative about the meeting. A simple ‘this way’ or ‘come on’ maybe showing their ball if they have one. Many owners make the mistake of waiting that bit longer to see if they ‘get on’ or misreading a ‘freeze’ or other subtle body gestures that mean “I don’t like you furball, leave me alone”!
Do you use punishment when teaching and living with your dog?
Many people say that they don’t use punishment, but are they correct? What is punishment anyway?
Punishment: An operant conditioning term that refers to the application or removal of something immediately following a behaviour in order to reduce the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated again in the future.
The word ‘punishment’ has such a stigma attached to it with regards dog psychology/training – it seems to be only associated with abuse and bad practise in the public eye. This is understandable as we tend to think of punishment in human terms, as retribution, paying for misdeeds or ‘getting our own back’. We think of parking fines and imprisonment, loss of freedom etc. So in this context it would be an unpleasant and largely ineffective training approach if applied to dogs!
In the scientific context however the term ‘punishment’ is completely misunderstood. It refers to the act of providing a consequence in relation to a behaviour in order to decrease the likelihood of that behaviour being repeated, the ‘punishment’ is delivered in a neutral state and no emotion is implied or involved. This should be descriptive and usually ‘blocks’ an unwanted behaviour before it starts to escalate, thus allowing for an alternative behaviour to be trained in it’s place so that we can reward this, and teach a better response or reaction in future. So, looking at it this way, this is not cruel or abusive at all, it is a very basic fundamental need, it ensures clarity and confidence in behaviours, allows us to halt a ritual that is damaging so that we can redirect onto a great alternative that is rewarding. This maximises the potential for enjoyment of joint activities and ensures that the dog has all of the information that he needs to live in our complex world and to thrive, be included in family life and enjoy freedom within the structure. Dogs with boundaries are relaxed and confident, they know the rules, stress levels are low and security is high!
A dog leaving his food in order to go for a drink from the water bowl and returning to find that the cat has finished his dinner – the act of abandoning his meal has been punished. He may begin to guard his food from the cat – so not a good outcome here. Or he may merely learn to be more watchful when the cat is around – maybe doling out a bit of punishment himself in the form of strong eye contact. We could avoid this entirely by not allowing the cat to approach the food bowl.
Saying ‘No’ with a firm glance when our dog goes to steal our lunch is a punishment. In future he will understand that our food is off limits – possibly a life saver if that food happens to be a bowl of unattended chocolate raisins!
Telling off a dog that has chewed up the sofa earlier that day is punishing. Not a good time to punish however – the chewing was probably stress related due to our absence, likely due to our poor planning or a lack of fulfilment in the dog, and probably occurred hours ago! This is not an appropriate time or context to use punishment at all. Punish yourself by hitting the credit card to buy another sofa but don’t punish the dog, it’s too late, it’s not appropriate and it could make matters worse!
Putting a tennis ball into a pocket when our dog bites at our hand in excitement for a game is a punishment, this provides not only a punishing consequence for the teeth to maintain safety, but very importantly, provides a consequence for excessive excitement (this part is passive association so isn’t technically punishment, but it is an association that is super-important!!). Excitement slips into anxiety very easily and isn’t a good state to promote, we CERTAINLY shouldn’t throw the ball at this point.
Clapping your hands to interrupt with a startle as a dog dips her head into the bin to retrieve the string from the Sunday Roast is a punishment! Again possibly a life saving punishment, there’s tin foil and cooked chicken bones in there too!
Punishment gets a terrible reputation because of the potential for abuse, and some terrible misapplication in the past, BUT It is the way in which punishment is applied, and the circumstances surrounding the punishment that makes it a kindness or a cruelty, not the act itself.
A punishment that is too extreme, inappropriate in context or administered in anger or frustration is not in the spirit of natural punishment, and would be better termed abuse! In nature dogs gain such a lot of information from the environment through punishments and rewards – equally. They learn what is safe and healthy and what is not, how to approach dogs if they want to play and what kind of approach results in social aggression, they learn what gets them what they want and they learn the boundaries of others – in our complicated and busy human world we need to be sure to describe the many rules to live by very clearly indeed. If we tell our dogs what to do and reward then this is a great start! We mustn’t omit the other side of the coin however, rules that are enforced maintain physical safety, and promote emotional calmness. This is a need and a right, this is our job as caretaker, owner and as the dog’s family.
It is very unfortunate that behavioural research adopted the term ‘punishment’ in this way. The negative cultural connotations associated with it in no way describe the scientific principle related to decreasing a given behaviour. Historically punishment has been misapplied and this has created a huge taboo when discussing the concept frankly and openly. But I think we need to be clear about what it is we are referring to when we discuss any terms used in behaviour modification, as some such as this could be misconstrued. In fact they regularly are – and this is currently leading to a sinister upsurge of unbalanced, unhappy, stressed and miserable dogs. It is no freak coincidence that euthanasia within rescue, and dog bites have increased massively since society adopted the ‘punishment is nasty and unnecessary’ stance. I think that many people have thrown the baby, the bath and their common sense out with the bath water! In the true sense punishment is calming and descriptive, necessary and kind.
So to sum up, unless we allow our dogs to do only what they want to do when they want to do it, and hang the consequences, safety and emotional balance, then perhaps a more accurate statement would be to say that we ‘do not use abusive methods’. Or perhaps we could state that we ‘avoid all but low level correction’, ‘preferring to use reward based training where possible’. This would be more accurate and would be a great basis for training and behaviour! Genuine ‘reward only’ approach is not kind at all when it comes to behaviour intervention for the most part! It is a bastardisation of the science, it is ineffective for many dogs and for addressing many issues, and for me can be as confusing and cruel as adopting an approach that is devoid of all reward.
Food for thought… both punishment AND reward can be a kindness or a cruelty. One without the other will never be enough to help every dog in every scenario.
if you enjoyed this read please take a look at julia’s page,
article by Andrea D. Steffen May 14, 2019
Blood-sniffing dogs may become the latest frontier in cancer detection, a new study presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting during the 2019 Experimental Biology conference in Orlando, Florida reveals.
By using their superb sense of smell — which is 10,000 times more accurate than a human’s, therefore making them highly sensitive to odors we can’t perceive — the trained lab dogs were able to pick-out blood samples from cancer patients with 97 percent accuracy. Did we even need another reason to call dogs “man’s best friend?”
Heather Junqueira, lead researcher on the study, says the results could lead to canine detection as a low-cost, non-invasive approach to cancer screening and perhaps other diseases. Dogs may also be able to detect cancer earlier than other traditional exams, she added.
“This work is very exciting because it paves the way for further research along two paths, both of which could lead to new cancer-detection tools. One is using canine scent detection as a screening method for cancers, and the other would be to determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and then design cancer-screening tests based on those compounds.”
Four beagles were taught to distinguish between healthy blood samples and those from patients with malignant lung cancer by Janqueira and her team at BioScentDx, the lab where the study was performed. One did not cooperate, but the other three dogs were able to identify cancerous samples 96.7 percent of the time.
Current And Future Studies
Now they are testing whether dogs can smell cancer in the breath condensate of breast cancer patients. The company launched a breast cancer study in which participants donate samples of their breath for screening by trained cancer-sniffing dogs. Next, they plan to isolate the chemical compounds in samples and find out exactly where the odor originates. They are quite confident the dogs will be able to perform well through all the types of smell tests they put them through.
If you are interested in training your dogs natural ability for a fun sport that is suitable for any dog take a look at our page.
We run Scent detection, Mantrailing and Tracking classes
Few things are more adorable—or destructive—than a new puppy. When they pee on rugs, chew furniture, and get aggressive with other pups, their stressed-out owners usually turn to dog training. Now, a novel study suggests programs that use even relatively mild punishments like yelling and leash-jerking can stress dogs out, making them more “pessimistic” than dogs that experience reward-based training.
“[Punishment] training may seem to work in the short run … but these methods can have future negative consequences,” says Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder who was not involved in the new study. “[These dogs are] living in perpetual stress.”
Previous studies have suggested that although both reward-based and punishment-based training methods are effective, punishment based training can have negative effects. But those studies tend to focus on police and laboratory dogs instead of family pets, and most used shock collars, which have been banned in several countries, as punishment.
To find out how companion dogs react to more routine punishments, scientists led by Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro at the University of Porto in Portugal recruited 42 dogs from reward-based training schools, which use food or play to encourage good behaviours. The team also enlisted 50 dogs from aversive-based programs, which use negative reinforcement like yelling and leash jerking to train dogs, or even pressuring their rumps to get them to sit.
The researchers videotaped the dogs during training and tested their saliva before and after for the stress hormone cortisol. Dogs in the negative reinforcement programs showed far more stress related behaviours during training, such as lip licking and yawning, and they had higher levels of cortisol in their saliva than when at home, the team reports on the preprint server bioRxiv. Dogs in the reward-based training group showed no changes in cortisol levels during training or at home.
To find out whether these effects lingered, the researchers measured how 79 of the dogs responded to a potential food reward. First, they trained the dogs to associate one side of a room with a delicious sausage. If a dog found a bowl in that part of the room, it would contain sausage. But bowls on the other side of the room would be empty.
Then, the researchers placed an empty bowl at various positions between the two extremes and measured how quickly the dogs approached it. An “optimistic” dog would run excitedly to a bowl in the middle, whereas a “pessimistic” dog would move more slowly. (In humans, an equivalent might be a glass half empty versus glass half full mindset.) Such “pessimistic” mindsets have been associated with separation anxiety and other problem behaviors in dogs. In the test, the more punishment a dog had received, the more “pessimistic” it was, and the more pronounced the results.
“This was a careful study,” Bekoff says. And although the paper does not address which method is more effective at training dogs, Bekoff says this and other findings provide more than enough evidence that dog owners should avoid aversive-based training.
That’s often easier said than done, because many dog training schools don’t advertise their methods, and such training is not regulated—at least in the United States, says Zazie Todd, a dog trainer and animal psychology blogger. She adds that dog owners should look explicitly for keywords like “reward-based,” and avoid schools that use language like “balance training” or “dominance methods.”
Bekoff agrees and says owners should take the time to talk to the trainer and to other owners who have worked with them. “[Reward-based training] may take time, but so what? At least the dog isn’t living in fear or constant stress.”
By Eva FrederickNov. 6, 2019 , 12:40 PM
A well written article by Bridget Sun highlighting the problems of bringing a new puppy home.
The greatest frustration for me as a dog trainer is the hundreds of times I have heard people ask what to do about the puppy they just brought home that is crying constantly when they leave it alone for a few minutes or even just seconds, sometimes confining it to a crate.
In many cases these puppies were removed from their mom and litter mates around 8 weeks of age, sometimes even earlier.
They may have still been nursing the day before, sleeping tightly snuggled in with mom and their litter mates in a familiar room with familiar smells, sights and sounds. They heard the other puppies breathing, heard their heart beats, smelled their familiar smell and felt their comforting touch and their mom’s gentle grooming.
When the new owner picks them up EVERYTHING familiar is gone in an instant.
While most people hold and talk to their new puppies on the way home, when they get there they are suddenly not available 24/7.
After all we have a life to live, need to work, make dinner, have our undisturbed sleep.
Meanwhile the puppy feels abandoned by the world and does what any abandoned baby does best, cry. Many people get the message and comfort the puppy, knowing instinctively what is needed. But then come the wanna-be dog trainers that say not to spoil the puppy, to let her sleep in a crate and ignore the crying for a few nights until it stops. And it will stop eventually, but not for the reasons people think, because he has been successfully crate-trained. Rather the puppy has given up, having learned that there is nobody who cares or wants him, absolutely nothing he can do to help his situation. The trauma for a young puppy should not be underestimated. The emotional pain is severe and the growing brain is forever affected by this trauma.
Dogs may be cognitively quite different from people but are emotionally very similar.
So when you take a young puppy away from all she knows at least give her everything that was lost, not just a bed, food and water.
Provide almost constant access to you at first to fill the need for warmth, closeness, touch, comfort, the sound of a heartbeat and the regular breathing of other sleeping beings.
Once the puppy is older and turning into an adolescent, around 5-7 months old, they will get more independent on their own.
You knew when you decided to get a dog that there would be dog hair: on your carpet, your couch, your clothes, even on your counter tops and table sometimes, and also on your bed.
This puppy will bond so much better if his needs are met as a baby.
Play has been a theme in class recently, and spurred on by my colleague Samantha Dobson, I’ve got round to blogging it so that I can share it with you.
So, let’s play!
It is really important to play with your dog. Play helps strengthen your bond with your dog:
“Most types of play appear to improve social cohesion between humans and dogs, increasing their familiarity and reducing agonistic interactions” (Somerville et al, 2017 )
The more you engage in the right kind of play, the better the bond with your dog can get:
“Play frequency and form may therefore be an indicator of the quality of dog-owner relationships.” (Bradshaw et al, 2014 )
Creating a good toy drive also gives you another reward option – sometimes food just doesn’t cut it.
But I don’t know how to play!
If you’re like me, you might find “playing” difficult at first. I love structured activities – when I play with my 8-year old son, we often do arts & crafts, board games, Lego, etc. However, when it comes to imaginative play, role play, then I begin to flounder after a few minutes. Somewhere on the journey to adulthood inhibitions have crept in, and play can become stilted and awkward unless I “let go” and properly engage with him. It takes a conscious effort for me to do it; hopefully I’ll get there before he grows up all too quickly!
Not knowing how to play with their dog affects many of my students in class; they worry they’re “not doing it right”. I love teaching my two dogs Mabel and Murphy tricks, agility, obedience and so on. It’s fun for me – structured, enjoyable fun. But that is not playing.
When I watch Mabel & Murphy play together, I imagine that I’d be hard pressed to match the fun factor they generate. They take turns to chase, dart around, duck and dive, sometimes have a little tussle, sometimes play tug-of-war with gusto. It all looks brilliant fun. How can I match that? The good news is that I don’t have to – that isn’t comparing like with like. Dog’s view playing with other dogs quite differently to playing with a human. With the former it has more of a competitive element;
“when the play-partner is a person, however, the important thing is the social contact that the game produces” (Bradshaw, 2011, p.204 ).
It is you that makes the game fun!
We can learn to play. In November last year, I invited Craig Ogilvie to come to my Haynes workshops to give me kick-start in Interactive Play  – and if you can get to one of his popular sessions then do! The triangle picture is me playing with Mabel under Craig’s guidance. My take home (or rather, take to the training class) points were to really engage with her, don’t be afraid to get puffed out, go for it, let the dog get the toy.
Note: if your dog has resource guarding / behavioural issues, consult your behaviourist for advice before embarking on play with your dog.
The Triangle of Play: Dog, Toy, Handler
1. The Dog
How will your dog like playing? Think a little about your dog’s breed – what are they designed to do? A toy breed may have very different ideas about what constitutes a good game compared to a terrier, or a gun dog, or a working dog.
Hundreds of years of breeding will have a big influence on which bits of the predatory motor patterns
ORIENT > EYE-STALK > CHASE > GRAB-BITE > KILL-BITE > DISSECT > CONSUME
(Copppinger and Coppinger, 2004, p.209)
they exhibit. It is well known that Border Collie’s are bred to have “the eye”; they exhibit ORIENT > EYE-STALK > CHASE very strongly to ensure that they work their flocks successfully. To generalise, Border Collie’s should prefer games that involve movement and chasing – so a toy attached to a flirt pole and you working the chase might be a good option for them. Terriers are bred to hunt out and kill vermin so exhibit CHASE > GRAB-BITE > KILL-BITE > HEAD-SHAKE > DISSECT motor patterns – so they should enjoy getting a good grab of a small furry toy, and having a really good rag on it (but don’t expect the toy to last long!). Ideally, retrieval gun dogs should prefer to retrieve their quarry, but it’d be a poor show at a shoot if they dissected the game: their motor patterns would typically be: ORIENT > CHASE > GRAB-BITE (Coppinger and Coppinger, 2004, p.210). So they might prefer not to engage in a full on head shake with their tug game; holding the toy may suffice.
This gives you some idea about how they will go about playing, but do bear in mind that every dog is an individual: see breed as a guide rather than a universal law.
2. The Toy
What toy will your dog like playing with? That’s really up to your dog!
Think about the texture of the toy – what do they prefer to hold in their mouth – canvas, fur, rope, smooth rubber, textured rubber, felt (e.g., tennis ball covering)? Think about the size of your dog – their toy has to comfortably fit in their mouth, can they get a good grip on it without it being a choke hazard? Does a squeaky toy excite them? As the play needs to involve you, it is helpful that you choose something you can easily get hold of (or attach to a flirt pole). If your dog is a little “mouthy” make sure there’s enough length in the toy to ensure no accidental mouth to hand contact.
The ideal toy could be a tennis ball stuffed in a knotted sock if your dog is a little bit ball (or sock) obsessed. If a ball on a rope is their thing, pick a rope width and ball size that’s appropriate to their mouth size. Maybe a long plaited fleece would suit a dog that prefers a soft feel to its “prey” but also prefers a little distance from his handler (or vice versa!). Some dogs may love a furry squeaky toy, others may prefer a canvas one. Rubber hoops are good (pullers).
A fair few dogs I know love collecting plastic bottles – they like the crinkly noise they make when they are crunched – so “upcycle” a bottle, pop it in an old footie sock. Remember, it’s what floats your dog’s boat, so think about what they naturally make a beeline for. See reference  for ideas from tug-e-nuff. Trial and error will play a part until you hit the jackpot. Once you do, keep that toy aside – it is the special toy for your “Triangle of Play”, so only get it out for your play sessions.
3. The Handler: YOU
Playing with your dog and their toy:
- Make the toy really exciting by wiggling it around, lots of movement; your energy and vocalisations should really get the dog going. Don’t waft it in front of your dog’s face; instead whizz it around at ground level to encourage your dog to EYE-STALK > CHASE the toy. Lose your inhibitions, don’t be shy! As long as your dog is excited to watch and chase the toy, that could be enough play for your first session. Keep it brief and lively, no more than a couple of minutes to begin with, and then pop the toy away – leave the dog wanting more!
- If your dog grabs and bites the toy, praise them with a “Good Hold”. It doesn’t matter if they don’t get a hold of it in your first few sessions, they will soon get the idea and engage with the you and the toy as their confidence grows – they might just look at it and follow it with their eyes the first few times, then next time begin to chase and sniff it, in later sessions perhaps chase and grab then release, before finally chasing, grabbing and holding. Take your time over several short cheerful sessions to develop the hold. Once they do take a hold of the you, encourage them to keep hold of it. Move with the dog, with cheerful vocalisations and plenty of praise.
- When your dog has hold of the toy, tug at it with them – a swishing side to side motion is ideal. Avoid raising the toy upwards with the dog attached to it – we’re not interested in developing a strong jaw, we’re looking at light hearted jolly play. Your dog may offer some vocalisations – go with it, they’re having fun!
- Once they’ve got the hang of holding the toy, teach them to release the toy. You’ll need another toy. Make toy no.1 really exciting by wiggling it around, lots of movement; your energy and vocalisations should really get the dog going. Once the dog has seized the toy, say “Good Hold”, and encourage some tugging. When you are ready, toy no.1 becomes ‘dead’ – you stop moving it and disengage from play (but do not release the toy). But all of a sudden you whip out toy no.2, and now it’s all about toy no.2. Really go for it! If you’re a bit puffed out and feel like a wally, you’re probably doing it right! Once your dog is reliably releasing the toy in exchange for another one, you can introduce your “Out” cue word. Click here for a nice video example from Steve Mann of the IMDT .
- To avoid frustration, let them win the toy – it is rewarding and will make them want to play more: “The majority of dogs do not seem to regard competitive games played with a human partner as “dominance” contests: rather, winning possession of objects during games appears to be simply rewarding. “ (Bradshaw et al, 2014 )
- The extent of the hold/tug really depends on your dog. Some dogs will hold on for dear life, whereas others will just have a little nibble and tug. The engagement is what matters, not the tug.
So long as it is right for your dog, you’re doing it right!
So, go and play with your dog – use the “Triangle of Play” to build your bond with your dog.
All images and text Copyright: Denise Price, 18 June 2018.
- John Bradshaw, In Defence of Dogs (2011), London, Penguin Books.
- Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger, Dogs (2004), London, Crosskeys Select Books.
- Sommerville, R., O’Connor, E.A., Asher, L., Applied Animal Behaviour Science (2017), Why do dogs play? Function and welfare implications of play in the domestic dog, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.09.007
- Bradshaw, J. W. S., Carter, A., Rooney, N. J., Behavioural Processes 110 (2014), Why do adult dogs ‘play’? https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2014.09.023
- Craig Ogilvie: http://craigogilviedogtraining.com
- A lovely video explanation of the “Out” can be found by Steve Mann of the IMDT here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5ldRn9iS5Y
- Ideas for toys: lovely variety can be found here https://tug-e-nuff.co.uk/collections/bungee-tug-toys-1