To Play . . or Not to Play. . . Will Tug of War Make My Puppy Aggressive?

Australian Terrier Puppy
Australian Terrier Puppy

Tug is defined “to pull hard” by Webster’s online dictionary. People play tug with their dogs by pulling on an item the dog is holding in his or her mouth. To win at tug, you take the item away from your dog.

Many of my clients ask me, “Is it okay to play tug with my puppy?” Good question. I know why you ask.

Tug of war is one of those controversial topics.  Some people believe it’s okay to play tug if the human always wins.  Other state. “playing tug will increase unwanted aggressive behaviors”.  These people tell others to avoid the game of tug with their dogs. I’m not sure why. I suspect these people promote concepts like alpha and dominance. The stronger animal is the boss and the weaker animal submits, right?

If you have visited a few pages on this site, you already know my thoughts on alpha.

I do not coach my clients to compete with their dogs for anything. I do not believe alpha comes into play between people and dogs. Click here to read my controversial article “Forget About Alpha”.

Okay, here are my thoughts on playing tug with puppies and dogs. The simple answer is, ‘it depends”. Tug can be a wonderful teaching game and reward for some dogs. Tug can be a dangerous game with some dogs, without some guidelines to keep it safe and fun.

If your dog exhibits aggressive behaviors, directed at you, then tug is probably not a good game for you and your dog! Young children should not play tug with a puppy who does not know the rules. Play biting kids is a puppy’s favorite pastime. Please click this link about play biting and kids if you have children in the house.

Here are some ideas on teaching puppies and dogs about tug.

You do not want to play tug with your socks, especially when still attached to your feet. To prevent tug games with the wrong items, purchase 1 or 2 tug toys. Once your puppy knows the rules you can play tug with whatever you wish. Tug toys are made for tug and have easy grip handles. Longer rope toys with handles or knots make for good tugging! Keep the tug toys away from your dog, unless you are playing tug. That means the toys should not be in his or her toy box, for them to play with and chew. These toys only come out when you want to play tug!
Here’s one of the best, rope tug toys.

Click the words
Tuff E Nuff Tug, Large
to visit Sit Stay and shop for tug toys.
TUFFENUFF.lg

Tuff E Nuff Tug, Large

It’s normal for puppies and dogs to growl and snarl when playing tug. Look for other body posturing that indicate your puppy is playing, not fighting. If your puppy’s butt is in the air and his or her front legs are on the ground, that’s a play bow. Your puppy wants to play!

When your puppy “accidently” makes teeth on skin contact (and he or she will) the game should end. Tell your puppy something like , “oops, you blew it”, and then walk away. If possible, take the toy away. Wait a minute or so, until your puppy is less excited, and then resume play.

Teach your puppy a signal that ends the game. I use “Game Over, then ask for the Drop.

Drop is useful for many games and situations. If your puppy does not know drop, give or trade, tug is a good game to use for teaching. Click this sentence for instructions on teaching your puppy to drop.

Use common sense about playing with your puppy. Puppies do not know how to play with humans. Avoid games that include rough play with your hands, tumbling or roughing up the puppy. This will send your puppy the wrong signals and increase play biting as well as other inappropriate play behaviors.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – Companion Animal Behavior Counselor and Trainer, Canine Specialization

How’s Bentley – Memphis, Collierville, Germantown TN

21st Century Canine Relationship Solutions

Group Dog Obedience Classes

Private Dog Training in Memphis TN

Reactive Dog Specialist

Ruger LCP 380 Pocket Handgun with Safety Off, or Half Trained, Aggressive, Protection Dog?

Armani GSDI view personal protection dogs for suburban families like handguns. Exactly where do you go that demands such a high level of defense? Why do you go there? What do you want your dog to protect, and when?

Imagine a lady’s purse concealing a Ruger LCP 380 automatic pistol. Imagine the purse is filled with cosmetics, billfold, and numerous other goodies that ladies carry in their purses. Imagine the pistol is loaded and the safety is off.  YIKES! That’s an accident waiting to happen.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed a trend in new dog owners. Families are getting German Shepherd Dogs and other protection breeds like the Doberman Pincher or Cane Corso. All of the mentioned breeds can be the perfect family pet, with an educated owner. Problems arise when the amateurs attempt to train the dog to be warriors by increasing aggressive responses.

Some of these people praise and reward the dogs for aggressive behaviors, regardless of the situation. People have the idea that the dogs will protect them, and guard their property.  Bad idea. The owners create a dog that will guard and attack, without discrimination!

Dog breeds that were specifically created for protection, guard duty, and fighting are not the best choice for a novice dog owner. Without guidance and extensive training, these guys are no better than a loaded and cocked handgun banging around in a purse.

The average person does not know how to train a dog to perform basic commands, much less advanced protection behaviors. A guarding dog, in the hands of a family dog owner, a dog that is purposely rewarded for aggressive behaviors, is an accident waiting to happen. The instances where the dog needs to guard are very rare, and the instances when the dog should relax for visiting children and friends is often.

Say, regardless of the dog you own, or want to own, you’ll need a 6 foot, leather training leash to teach Basic Obedience COMMANDS.

Here’s a link to Amazon, who has the best price for a braided, 6 foot, 1/2″ leather leash.

Alan J Turner Memphis TN

How’s Bentley – 21st Century Canine Relationship Specialist

Reactive Dog Workshop


Amateur Shock Collar Use Starts Dog Fight

German Shepherd DogIf you want to control your pet dog’s involuntary aggressive responses via force and intimidation, you are entering a spiral of blackness and doom.

One day, your chosen method or equipment will fail; injuries and sadness will emerge. I’ve seen it many times.

Point being, punishing the growl with a quick burst of energy via an e-collar, leash jerk, Caesar Milan hiss, alpha roll, spank on the butt, or verbal reprimand, does nothing to change underlying, emotional reasons for the growl. In many cases, the aggression increases, because the naughty dog associates other dogs or strangers with the discomfort.

You may very well stop your dog from growling with one of many punishment techniques, that I do not deny. (Success via corrections really depends on the underlying causes, but that is a topic for another day.)

But, you just signed a life long commitment to supervise every interaction your dog has with strangers or other dogs. You will constantly have to prove to your dog that you are a superior warrior.  And you have made your task of supervision much more difficult.

If you zap your dog every time he or she growls or gives another animal the “eye”, you will negate your observation skills, because your dog will skip the body posturing and growling (the obvious, observable behaviors that indicate a problem), and go straight to the bite.

If you are using a training collar, e collar, shock collar, or any other special equipment, your dog must always be fitted with the equipment, and you must always be ready to use the equipment.

All you’ve done is remove the warning, the very warning that lets you know something is wrong, the very warning that tells you to take action to avoid an incident.

It’s like placing a black tape mask over a check engine warning lamp on your car’s dashboard. Great, now you don’t see the warning, therefore the problem is resolved?!

I’m not one of those “never ever use a shock collar or leash jerk” kind of people. I realize there are times when corrections are helpful. Shock collars, leash jerks, or verbal reprimands may be useful tools within a behavior modification program designed by a canine behavior counselor.

If your behavior modification plan includes rewards, obedience training, classical conditioning, and changing the dog’s perception, you can change the underlying reason your dog is aggressive.

If your only solution to stop your dog from attacking other dogs or strangers is the use of corrections, truth is, you would benefit from a bit of help. You should contact a canine reactive behavior specialist.

None of this comes to anyone in a dream. I was ignorant until I began my studies about animal learning, behavior, and canine behavior modification. I made all the same “logical” assumptions about controlling dogs via corrections and intimidation. If you are not familiar with basic concepts of instrumental conditioning, you should never use a shock collar to stop your dog from behaving aggressively. Your ignorance will bite you.

Real Life Example:

In my neighborhood there is a large breed dog who has been naughty towards other dogs. (I’ll omit the breed, because it has no relevance to this story). The owner uses a shock collar to punish Naughty Dog’s aggressive behaviors. The owner’s mom was walking Naughty Dog, without the shock collar, and has been doing so for months, with no incidents of aggression. A few days ago, the honeymoon ended. The lady who was walking Naughty Dog was passing another leashed dog on the street. Naughty Dog did not growl or send any signals that he was about to attack. The lady was caught off guard when Naughty Dog suddenly attacked the passing adult male dog. The lady was bitten in the face when she tried to break up the dog fight.

If the owner had not used a shock collar to punish the aggression, the Naughty Dog would have postured or growled, and the lady could have seen what was about to happen. She could have avoided the situation. But Naughty Dog “attacked without warning”, which ironically, perplexed the owner. The owner has no idea that he was directly responsible for Naughty Dog’s lack of warning signals.

P.S. The German Shepherd Dog in the picture, Samantha, is not Naughty Dog! 

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner How’s Bentley Memhis TN

Reactive Dog Specialist

Dog Training & The ABCs of Instrumental Conditioning

Bimmer1There are three distinct pieces to a voluntary behavior, called the ABCs.
The “B” represents the behavior.
“A” is for Antecedent, which is anything present in the environment before a specific behavior. The A precedes the behavior.
“C” is for Consequence, which is the immediate result of the behavior.

Here’s an example of the ABCs of a voluntary behavior.  A dog jumps up on a counter and gets food.

Dog sees and smells food on counter Dog jumps up Dog gets food.

A                                                                 B                         C

  • The A – food is on counter, dog has access to the counter area, dog is hungry
  • The B is the behavior, which is any response to any stimulus.
  • The C is the immediate consequence of the B.

Suppose you would like to reduce “jump up steal food off counter” behavior.

In order to change a voluntary behavior, we modify either the events / environment before the behavior (antecedent), or we modify the events or environment immediately after the behavior (consequence), or both.

You could modify the antecedents and the behavior would be less likely to occur. For Example: attach a leash or tether, place the dog outside of the area, teach the dog to sit or go to place while you make a sandwich, and so forth. Some of the changes could happen immediately, others require that you train your dog.

Now let’s take a look at a few consequences and how they might influence behavior.

Types of Consequences

If consequences are to have an effect on the preceding behaviors, consequences must occur during or immediately after behaviors. Consequences are grouped into two categories, reinforcers or punishers. For consequences to be considered reinforcers or punishers, their effects on behaviors must occur now and anytime in the future when the animal is presented with similar circumstances.

  • Reinforcers increase behaviors.
  • Punishers decrease behaviors.

Consequences can be added or subtracted.

  • A consequence that is added or begins is called a positive consequence.
  • A consequence that is subtracted or stopped is called a negative consequence.

There are four possible consequences for any given behavior. Two of the consequences will increase (or reinforce) the behavior, and the other two will decrease (or punish) the behavior.

  • Positive Reinforcer – add or begin to increase behavior
  • Positive Punisher – add or begin to decrease behavior
  • Negative Punisher – subtract or remove to decrease behavior
  • Negative Reinforcer – subtract or remove to increase behavior

Dog sees and smells food on counter Dog jumps up Dog gets food. In this example, the behavior of “dog jumps up” is being reinforced (assuming the dog likes the food). A stimulus is added and the consequence increases the behavior, therefore the consequence is a positive reinforcer.

Dog sees and smells food on counter Dog jumps up Dog gets squirted with water. In this example, the behavior of “dog jumps up” is being punished (assuming the dog dislikes being squirted with water). A stimulus begins and the consequence decreases the behavior, therefore the consequence is a positive punisher.

Dog sees and smells food on counter Dog jumps up Human makes food disappear. In this example, the behavior of jumping up is being punished (assuming the dog wants the food). A stimulus is subtracted and the consequence decreases the behavior, therefore the consequence is a negative punisher.

Dog on counter is being squirted with water Dog jumps off counter and onto floor Squirting of water is stopped. In this example, the behavior of “the dog being on the floor” is reinforced (assuming the dog dislikes being squirted with water). A stimulus is stopped and the consequence increases the behavior, therefore the consequence is a negative reinforcer. Negative reinforcers usually include escape and avoidance behavior.

Dog friendly training focuses on using positive reinforcement and negative punishment to teach our dogs desirable behaviors. Although we will use all four consequences, dog friendly training focuses on using positive reinforcement and negative punishment to teach our dogs desirable behaviors.


Alan J Turner – Dog Training in Memphis Collierville Germantown TN

How’s Bentley Aggressive Dog Seminar

Dogs and Puppies are Opportunists!

Boston TerrierDogs and puppies are opportunists.

Dogs follow one rule – “What’s in it for me – right now?” Dogs have no concept of right or wrong, good or bad. I do not believe dogs are concerned about yesterday or tomorrow. I believe dogs are interested in the present and how they can get what they want at this instant in time.

Dogs do what they do because their behaviors are instrumental in getting what they desire– period.

Animals perform voluntary behaviors that are instrumental in achieving their immediate goals.

Voluntary behaviors that achieve immediate goals are repeated.

Voluntary behaviors that fail to achieve immediate goals are discontinued.

Therefore, if your dog is constantly barking at you, the dog must have a history of getting what he or she wants by barking at people. Your ultimate goal is to teach your puppy dog a polite way to ask for whatever. The first step now is to prevent your pup from refining rude behaviors.

When your dog barks at you, walk away. This will teach the dog that barking makes you go away, quite the opposite of what he or she desires. Return in a few moments and then give your dog a couple of simple commands, such as Go-To-Place, Sit or Lie Down. Mark the instant your puppy succeeds and then give that rascal some version of FAT.

The idea is to teach your puppy or dog that barking is not the method to get your attention, but Go-To-Place or Lie Down will get your attention!

NOTES: Notice the word, “voluntary” in the post. Behaviors that involve fearful, compulsive, reactive, or aggressive responses are not necessarily voluntary and cannot be modified using the same rules as voluntary behaviors.

There are many different underlying causes for barking, with just as many (or more) solutions to reduce barking. Some solutions are better for some situations and other methods work best in other situations. For example, if your dog is barking at the dog next door, walking away would be useless.


Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – How’s Bentley Memphis TN
21st Century Canine Relationship Specialist

Pet Dogs for Protection Dogs?

OdenGSDOn How’s Bentley Private Services Enrollment Form, the box labeled “For Protection” is often selected as one of the reasons my clients acquire their pet dogs. I understand why people select a pet dog for a protection role.

I have worked with more German Shepherd Dogs in the past year than the previous 3 years. I believe the current political and social cultures are responsible for people choosing dogs like German Shepherd Dogs, Doberman Pinchers, and other guarding dogs with “vicious” labeling. We are more fearful as a country than we were 15 years ago. That is reflected by the breeds of dogs that we choose. OOPs, this is off topic. I’ll talk about dog breed selection trends in the suburbs of Tennessee at another time.

Many people expect their dogs to be natural protectors and body guards. Too bad it’s not that simple.

It’s not that dogs won’t protect. Some dogs will naturally growl, snarl, bark, snap and bite when anyone approaches.

That’s the problem. Some dogs protect us from everyone. Dogs growl, snarl, snap and bite family members, house mates, friends, children, neighbors, cable guys, even pizza delivery couriers. That’s just rude. I need my pizza. Please Killer, spare the Domino Pizza guy.

Our pet dogs are not any better at determining who is a threat than the average Joe. We have these opposable thumbs and large brains, yet very few of us can determine which people in a busy suburban mall parking lot are about to attack us. Our untrained dogs have a solution. Bite them all and let the alpha dog sort them out!?

YIKES! The point is, you must take time to obedience train your dog before you can have a dependable protection dog. The last thing you want is a dog that decides every stranger is a threat and acts without your input!

True personal protection dogs are very well trained in all aspects of basic and advanced obedience and many participate in Schutzhund, a dog sport that originated in Germany. True protection dogs will stop attacking when their handlers command them to disengage.

Before you select a breed of dog genetically bred for natural, protective tendencies, talk with a trainer who can help you teach the dog basic obedience. For if you have a pet dog that is aggressive towards everyone, and will not stop when you call, you do not have a protection dog. You have a liability.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner
Companion Animal Behavior Counselor and Trainer
Private Sessions to Help Aggressive and Fearful Dogs
How’s Bentley- Memphis, Collierville, Germantown, TN

Canny Collar Supplier

USA Customers PURCHASE CANNY COLLARS CLICK HERE – $32.90 USD includes shipping.

Alan J. Turner Launches New Web Site

img_0030Alan J Turner is a companion animal behavior counselor and trainer.  Alan operates How’s Bentley in Memphis Tn.  Alan works full time in the companion animal field. Alan’s specialization is canine behavior and offers group and private dog training classes. Many of Alan’s clients have dogs who are aggressive or fearful. Alan works closely with the veterinary community in Collierville, Germantown, Cordova, and Memphis TN.

The web site, dogand.com, is designed to deliver information to people who live in areas where there are no canine behavior counselors. In addition, Alan offers many instructional guides for a fraction of the cost of a private dog trainer! Visit http://dogand.com for dog and behavior and help!