You Need to Cease! Interrupting Unwelcome Pet Play Towards an Older Canine


A tan and black dog lies on the grass holding a ball and a brown and white puppy runs toward her

Or: The Magic Buffalo Tug

In my put up concerning the challenges of dwelling with and coaching Lewis, I discussed that the worst downside we confronted was his hassling Clara to play. We’ve made some progress.

When he first got here, his most frequent conduct towards her was humping. I bear in mind telling Marge Rogers I had eliminated him or referred to as him away dozens of occasions in a day. The humping diminished, fortunately. He does it far much less continuously and fewer intensely and can fortunately dismount after I name him away.

However the subsequent section was harder.

A extra troublesome downside emerged. As an alternative of humping, Lewis initiated play with Clara dozens of occasions a day. Sounds good, proper? No. First, she didn’t need to play dozens of occasions a day, however she is simply too retiring to inform him off convincingly. Worse, his strategies of initiating play included: 1) growl the meanest sounding play growl possible and chew on Clara’s face and neck relentlessly; 2) chew her tail and pull; 3) chew one among her hind legs and grasp on; and 4) within the yard, physique slam her with no warning at high pace. However since each from time to time she did need to play, she put his impolite conduct on a variable ratio reinforcement schedule, which elevated his pure persistence.

I’ve seen Clara inform Lewis emphatically NO solely twice. As soon as was when his meals toy had escaped beneath the sofa and he thought of swiping hers. She gave a robust warning bark proper in his face and he backed off immediately. She did one thing comparable with a toy she actually needed at some point when he made a play for it. However in any other case she has been a pushover. Even when she responds to his chewing on her with growls and unfriendly chomping, he reacts as if she will not be critical—and he or she doesn’t show him fallacious. So I wanted to intervene.


Early on, I wasn’t in a position to get Lewis’ consideration to interrupt him out of play or tried play. He was misplaced to the world. Each of them have been; I couldn’t even get Clara’s consideration when she was into it. So as soon as he began, I needed to bodily take away him if Clara didn’t need to play. That’s why he (nonetheless!) wears a harness and sometimes drags a leash: so I can take away him or stop him from launching at her. I’m not pleased with this, however I’ve to guard my different canine.

I’m nicely conscious of the dangers of canines taking part in whereas carrying collars or harnesses. Life with canines is filled with calculated dangers and that is the place I fall on this specific danger. Clara wears solely a breakaway collar and we’re working towards one for Lewis. However she is much much less more likely to chew on him than he’s to chew on her.

Again to the issue at hand. I noticed that my administration methodology of bodily interruptions hadn’t diminished the issue conduct in any respect. We all the time hope, proper? So I began eager about what else to do. Crating or in any other case separating him, aside from utilizing the tether, was not an possibility then.

Two Sources

Once I thought of how else to deal with the issue, two issues got here to thoughts. First, Kiki Yablon posted on Instagram a video of utilizing a structured tug recreation to show a lab pet to not chew at flapping clothes and different objects. Second, I remembered one thing I’ve heard Marge say many occasions, that when she has a pet in the home she all the time has treats in a single pocket and a toy within the different.

A toy! I all the time have treats in a pocket, however I’ve hardly ever carried a toy. However I preferred Kiki’s method of utilizing toy play as an alternative choice to play-driven conduct, and had Marge to encourage me. So I purchased the tiniest tug toy I might discover at Clear Run. I needed it to be a novel toy, and it wanted to be sufficiently small to slot in my pocket. Enter the buffalo tug.

Conduct Chain

From the primary, I nervous about making a conduct chain. If the tug play was enticing (and also you’ll see how a lot Lewis delights in tug) and the one approach he might entry it was by bothering Clara, then guess what was going to extend? Bothering Clara. So I gave it just a few tries on the primary day however consulted with Marge shortly earlier than I created an issue.

The primary time I whipped out the tug toy to lure him away from Clara, it was like a bolt of power shot by him. He was thrilled out of his thoughts. He raced to me and we performed for a minute or two, then I traded him a few items of kibble for the tug toy. He has an excellent “out” cue already, however I preferred the kibble commerce for this example.

Closeup of a brown and white puppy's face as he grips a tug toy
Lewis with the buffalo tug

So I discovered I had a robust device, one thing that competed along with his favourite reinforcer, poor Clara. Even on that first day, he would advance on Clara, then flip and take a look at me. “Properly? The place’s the tug?” This was each good and dangerous information. Good as a result of he was stopping earlier than grabbing her. Dangerous as a result of it might result in a sequence and improve the Clara-bothering. I texted Marge so I wouldn’t create a worse downside.


It’s possible you’ll surprise why I haven’t talked about punishment. I do use adverse punishment on occasion. However on this case, it might be as a timeout, eradicating both him or Clara from the scenario shortly, contingent on his undesirable conduct. However eradicating him from the motion could be a whopper of a punisher for him. He’s received a large case of Worry of Lacking Out. I by no means knew how dangerous that might get. And eradicating Clara with a transparent contingency (“she’s leaving since you have been being a jerk”) could be hard-to-impossible. I do separate them to guard her. However I don’t see the administration actions I take reducing the conduct. I’d a lot slightly focus my efforts on stopping him from doing it within the first place.

Tweaking the Plan

Marge helped me add three tweaks.

  1. I requested for a conduct or two earlier than tugging. I had his full consideration, and he was comfortable to do something to get the tug. The behaviors he had on cue on the time have been sit, down, eye contact, hand goal, and go to mat. He defaulted to sit down since he already knew to sit down to begin a recreation. However I switched it up and requested for various issues.
  2. As soon as he might flip his consideration to me as a substitute of leaping Clara, at occasions I strengthened with meals as a substitute of tug. Tugging is what allowed me to get his consideration so shortly although, so I nonetheless used tug more often than not.
  3. Most essential: I produced the tug toy at different occasions. It was important that attacking Clara was not the one approach for him to get entry to such a gorgeous recreation. I didn’t need to get clobbered by the matching legislation. So I additionally whipped out the tug typically when he simply got here as much as me and gave me eye contact or sat. I preferred the concept he might simply come and ask me in these methods (slightly than grabbing my arm or walloping Clara). I additionally simply popped it out randomly.

Right here’s a video from two days after I began utilizing the pocket tug. I used to be about to interrupt the play as a result of Lewis getting tough and obnoxious. However at that second he interrupted himself and reoriented to me. Tug recreation on!

Sudden and Anticipated Results

OK, an expert coach might have predicted these, however I didn’t.

Tan dog and brown and white dog are chewing on a hairy tug toy together
“Sharing” the buffalo tug
  1. Clara needed the tug. After all she did. Why do I all the time make these plans as if there isn’t one other canine within the combine? So in fact I needed to let her have it, each to play tug with and to chew on. She is the explanation there isn’t a lengthy hair left on our tug (see the picture beneath). And typically she and Lewis performed with the tug collectively. This sounds slightly like I shot myself within the foot, and maybe I did, however he was a lot nicer once they performed with an object than if it was simply tooth and claw. That’s a technique I ramp down their play anyway: get a toy within the combine.
  2. The day I launched the tug toy and ceaselessly after, I might immediately get Lewis’ consideration merely by saying his identify, regardless of how intensely they have been taking part in. Candy! This added to the protection of the family. I want my canines to have the ability to ramp down after they’ve ramped up. I had already been interrupting their play lots and inspiring them to take action, however the tug supercharged my potential to get their consideration and tone issues down.
  3. I grew to become much more of an leisure heart for Lewis. This can be a blended blessing for me, in fact, however it’s nice to get his focus after I want it.
  4. As hoped, offering him tons extra mini-sessions of play through the day appeared to cut back his have to pester Clara. It’s laborious to say, as a result of she additionally began to say no much more usually and extra convincingly. However a mixture of approaches switched his play focus extra to me (and the neighbor canines—extra on that one other time!).
A small, well chewed tug toy made of buffalo hide
The attractive buffalo tug after weeks of heavy use and leisure chewing

The place Issues Stand

These methods are working nicely. Clara and I’ve discovered a number of methods to dissuade him. In addition to the buffalo tug methodology, there’s a mat subsequent to my place on the kitchen desk she will be able to get on; it’s laborious for him to entry her there. Typically I’ll cue her right into a crate or she’ll get in on her personal. Clara and I typically go off to a different room of the home (not contingent on a play try, simply as a deliberate exercise). This can be a huge deal as a result of previously, Lewis’ FOMO would have made him scream. He’s studying that he will get a flip.

I want I might say I’ve solved the issue and Lewis solely approaches Clara with respect and finesse. Bwa-ha-ha-ha, if solely! These reside creatures, and I’m coping with a strongly pushed conduct on Lewis’ half. However play conduct may be formed, and I hope he can work out some ways in which work higher than ramming of us like a violent cartoon character.

I’ll shut with this latest clip of Lewis taking part in with some balls and **not** slamming Clara, who will get to chew on hers in (comparative) peace.

Copyright 2022 Eileen Anderson

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