Date: August 5, 2017

Tug of War with your Dog

First, forget the myth.
For decades, dog owners have been told never to play tug-of-war with their dogs because it increases aggression in the dog. This isn’t true—every study done refutes the notion. Playing tug-of-war doesn’t turn your dog into a predator; he already is one. The game simply provides a safe and enjoyable outlet for the behavior.

Why it’s a good idea.
Tug-of-war is:

• A tremendous cardio workout and brainteaser for your dog.
• A great way to teach your dog to listen to commands even when excited and distracted.
• Exercise that can happen indoors, outdoors, in short sessions, and with little space.
• Likely to lessen any behavior problems resulting from under-stimulation and boredom.
• A potent motivator for snappy obedience.

The caveat.
Tug-of-war, however, should be correctly trained and always played by the rules. Remember: Control the game and you control the dog. Follow the method and rules laid out here, and you are in for a great time with your dog:

If your dog hoards the tug toy, show zero interest. If, when your dog “wins,” i.e. you let go of the tug toy, he leaves and hoards the toy, play hard to get. Never chase your dog or get into a battle involving speed or agility. You won’t win and psych-outs work much better, so pretend you couldn’t care less.

Notice and reward steps in the right direction. If your dog tries to re-engage you in the game by dropping the toy in front of you, praise him and try again. The goal is for your dog to learn that the tug toy is infinitely more fun when brought to life by you than when dead. Patience is key here, especially with inveterate hoarders.

Before playing tug-of-war.

Put the release on command.
Decide on a release command such as “Out,” “Give,” or “Let go.” Before getting your dog excited about playing tug for the first time, practice some low-key exchanges with him. The sequence is:

1. Give the command to release
2. Your dog releases
3. Give a food reward
4. Give the command to re-take

Troubleshooting.
If your dog doesn’t take the tug toy in his mouth to begin with, practice the exchanges anyway. Give him the toy (put it down in front of him) and then take it back, give the reward, and then replace the toy. Rehearse dozens of reward-for-toy exchanges. The release should be well trained before you continue with the game. (If your dog becomes possessive about toys, call us for advice).

If your dog grabs the toy and runs away, instead practice the exchanges without completely letting go of the toy. The important thing is that your dog experiences having something taken away, getting a reward, and then having the thing presented to him again.

If your dog won’t let go of the toy with a bit of encouragement, try first having him sniff the food treat. Once this has worked a few times, hide the treat and try again. If your dog is reluctant to release, reward every exchange until he releases without hesitation on the first command every time. Eventually, getting to take the toy again will become the reward for releasing on command, but using food early on helps break your dog’s focus on the toy. Experiment with a variety of different food treats if your dog is very reluctant to part with his tug toy.

Every game has penalties.
During actual tug-of-war games, apply the following penalties:

A 30-second time out. For any failure to release the tug toy, stop play and leave the room for 30 seconds.

End the game. For a game misconduct like grabbing your clothes or your hand with his mouth, stop the game altogether.

When your dog knows, loves, and is hooked on tug-of-war, ending the game abruptly is by far the most potent motivator against rule breaking.

The 4 tug-of-war rules.

1. Your dog has to release the tug toy on command.
Of course, you have thoroughly trained the release command, so any failure to comply should result in a time-out penalty.

2. One tug toy only—and the game only happens when you say so.
Designate a tug toy as the one-and-only tug toy, reserved for this game and nothing else. Then decide on a take command like “Get that rope!” This rule prevents your dog from misfiring in day-to-day life: you don’t want someone innocently picking up a tug toy and being enthusiastically jumped by your dog and you don’t want to have him grab some other thing you are holding because he thought he heard the command.

The easiest way to train this rule is to practice it while playing. If your dog goes for the toy before you have invited him, give a No Reward Mark (“Oh! Too bad!”), and do a time-out followed by an obedience break (see next rule). Then invite your dog to take the toy.

This rule infraction is extremely common in tug-of-war games, so don’t sweep it under the rug. If your dog goes for another retake before being invited, i.e. makes the same mistake twice in a row, end the game.

3. The game stops often for obedience breaks.
Tug-of-war is one of the great recyclable rewards for obedience training. Alternate back and forth between the tug game and obedience to spot-check your control over your dog during the game and to teach him obedience when he is excited and distracted. Every initiation of the tug game is a potent reward you can use to select a particularly nice obedience response. Your dog will try fanatically hard to improve his obedience to get you to restart the game. What’s more, through repeated association over time, the two activities will blur in your dog’s mind, eventually making him love obedience training.

4. Zero tolerance of sloppy jaw control.
Your dog will sometimes make contact with your hand or other part of you by mistake. Sometimes he might even latch on to you or your clothing as though you were a tug toy. Don’t let this go unnoticed. Screech “Ouch!” even if it didn’t hurt and abruptly end the game. This is game misconduct every time. Dogs can control their jaws with great precision if given a reason to do so.

With this rule you not only remind your dog of the sensitivity of human skin and the great necessity to keep his jaws off people at all times, you have also trained this while he is excited, which is where sloppy jaws are most often a problem.

That’s it. Now have fun with it.
If your dog isn’t breaking any of the rules, let him get as excited as he wants. This includes head shaking, strong tugging, and growling. (But maintain the rules through constant practice and testing.)

The Bicon Frise

DESCRIPTION

A charming little puffball, the Bichon Frise aims to please and loves being the center of attention. They are small, sturdy dogs with loosely curling double coats consisting of a textured outer layer lined by a fine, soft and silky undercoat, making them practically hypoallergenic. Bichon Frise dogs are typically all white, but can come in cream, apricot or gray variations as well. Their tails curve over their backs. Featuring a merry disposition, the Bichon Frise breed makes delightful and entertaining companions. They are sensitive, affectionate and gentle-mannered. They are very playful and amusing, making them an ideal dog for children that also get along well with other pets.

AKC STANDARD

 

TEMPERAMENT

Bichon Frise puppies and dogs get along well with practically everybody. They are charming, energetic and love to please their masters. This breed does well with children, the elderly and the disabled. Bichon Frise puppies and dogs can be difficult to house train but they have a self-assured temperament and highly intelligent mind that will eventually grasp the concept. These little dogs do not yap but they are very sociable and enjoy being the center of attention or surrounded by their loving family. They want to go everywhere and do everything with their family and will be easy to live with. With an independent spirit, affection nature and lively disposition, Bichon Frise puppies and dogs are easy to love and seamlessly join the family.

GROOMING

Family pets should frequent a groomer for professional grooming every 4 weeks or so. Bichon Frise puppies and dogs should be bathed every month and groomed between professional visits. Their bodies can be tended to with electric clippers while the rest of the dog should be cared for with scissors. Fur around Bichon Frise puppies and dogs’ eyes is susceptible to staining and requires particular attention. These charming dogs will shed little to no hair and are, therefore, good for anyone suffering from allergies.

HEALTH

Bichon Frise puppies and dogs are fairly healthy. Some common health problems may include epilepsy, autoimmune disease, cancer, skin ailments, blocked tear ducts, bladder problems, cataracts and luxating patellas.

EXERCISE

Other than a daily pack walk, Bichon Frise puppies and dogs can achieve most of their exercise through daily play. These little puffballs of energy will continue to play as long as their families are willing and are more than happy to do so. Bichon Frise dogs also enjoy the freedom to walk or romp in open spaces.

TRAINING

As little dogs, the Bichon Frise breed is susceptible to the human induced behavior of Small Dog Syndrome. This occurs when the dog feels as if he is the leader of the pack and in charge of his humans. Bichon Frise puppies and dogs may exhibit a wide range of behavior problems if this occurs, including separation anxiety, snapping or biting, guarding and excessive barking. Be sure to set the boundaries for this little dog and establish yourself as the pack leader. It should also be noted that Bichon Frise puppies and dogs are difficult to house train. Crate training Is more Important for these little dogs because of the housetraining difficulty.

STAFF CONSENSUS

Bichons are great little companion dogs if you don’t mind a dog that will want to be with you all the time.  Some people will run agility with their Bichon Frise which could be an option for people that are looking for a little dog but still want to compete in some kind of an activity.  Here at Turd Herders, we like the looks and personalities of Bichons.  They are a good dog for people that have children and that live in a small house or apartment as well as a larger home.  They are just as happy sitting on the couch, or your lap, as they are running around playing.  If you are going to get a Bichon Frise just be prepared to spend extra time on housetraining. They are very smart and will take to obedience training well.  As with all dogs, consistency is key in training.  Small Dog Syndrome is a very real danger with this dog.  Remember that your Bichon is a dog and treat them like a dog, not a human, and you’ll be sure to avoid this issue.  Contact us with your Bichon training and care needs. Turd Herders, (603) 965-2259.

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