Friday, August 28, 2009

How to Play Tug of War with your Dog





There is no better stress buster, health tonic and joyful activity than playing with your dog.

Here are a few games I play with my pet girl Sherry. [Her mother is pure Doberman and father the Caravan Hound, who prowled next door]

Sherry is not a cute cuddly indoor lapdog, nor is she merely an excitable watch dog who only barks at intruders – she is a superb guard dog, strong, fast, active and ferocious, ready to attack in order to protect what she considers her territory, which includes our house and family, especially her Master – woe betide anyone who comes menacingly to close to me for her comfort, particularly approaching joggers, cyclists et al.

Whenever Sherry wants to play, she invites me to play by adopting the “playful pose” – her front legs lowered, her butt raised up in the air, her tail high up in the air wagging friendly, her eyes looking upwards invitingly into mine, her ears up alerts and her mouth is open in a "grin".

Normally I respond immediately, but sometimes if I am preoccupied and inadvertently do not notice her, Sherry will some near me, raise her paws, giving cyclic shake hands, beckon me with friendly entreating sounds, and if even that doesn’t work, she will run and get her ball [to play “fetch-the-ball], her toy bone [for the “ bone game”] or just run round and round at top speed in our garden [for the chase game] – now all these are vigorous outdoor games.

Indoors, our favourite game is “tug of war”, for it too is a spirited, energetic, rough and tough game; robust mental and physical exercise both for Sherry and me.

After a long hiatus, it is raining incessantly out here in Girinagar, so we’ve had to call off our evening walk up the hills, and Sherry is getting restless, so I suddenly command: “Pusa…Pusa…Gheun Ye…” [Now, Sherry is a Maharashtrian Doberman, and in Marathi, Pusa… Pusa means “wipe… wipe” and refers to her towel…when Sherry was a baby I would give her a bath and then say Pusa…Pusa while wiping her vigorously with her Turkish towel so she associates Pusa…Pusa with a towel or any such cloth].

Sherry rushes off delightfully and brings her towel in her mouth and offers it to me to start the tug-of-war game. A thick Turkish towel is the best tug of war toy – it is sturdy yet soft, good for her teeth and easy for me to hold, and even when the going gets rough, Sherry loves the vigorous feel of the towel rubbing against her neck, head and body.

It is a rough and tough game of strength and skill – you just don’t pull – actually it is not a tug of war, but rather a jiggle, wiggle, waggle, jerk, squirm, twist and turn, and shake of war so I do all sorts of manoeuvres, shaking, teasing, loosening and improvising; in fact Sherry thinks up numerous ways to win this tug of war.

We play in a large area without distractions, clutter or dangerous objects. Outdoors is great, but the beauty of tug of war is that it can be safely played indoors if you have a bit of space. Make sure there is room for you both to move about and that there is nothing in the way should one of you back up.

As the game of tug of war hot up, Sherry [and me too] gets highly excited, wags her tail briskly and mock growls, so I rub against her and say in her ear…baba la gurr…baba la gurr – dogs love body contact and speaking in their ears.

With experience I learnt tricks of the trade – you cannot always win by pulling alone – it is like flying kites – you have to give dheel sometimes followed by a jhatka – and then jittery shakes – the possibilities are endless.

Conventional wisdom says that the “owner” must win all the time to assert his dominance in the “pack”. But I let Sherry win sometimes. I don’t need to “establish” my place in the “hierarchy” – do you need to establish your place in the hierarchy with your daughter, or son, or wife?

A tough dog needs to bite. Biting is in a dog’s natural instinct and temperament and it is one of the best natural ways for dogs to release pent up stress and energy. It is better Sherry happily releases her pent up stress and energy on the inanimate tug of war towel than some hapless animate object, isn’t it?

Also I don’t want my Sherry to be a sissy – she must be her natural aggressive self – after all she is a top quality guard dog and I must not curb too much her natural preying instincts. That is why I simulate quite an energetic tug of war game with a lot of growling, grunting and shaking on both sides.

If things get too rough, or I am tired and want to end the game, I just softly say: “Drop it” and Sherry lets go of the towel and then I give her a tit-bit.

I love playing tug-of-war with Sherry – it is a mentally and physically stimulating game for Sherry and me and is a great form of aerobic exercise too. And it is so much fun – playing tug of war with Sherry is a most enjoyable and satisfying pastime.

Tug of War is a rough game so only I [or my son who is also a tough guy]play tug of war with Sherry – I never allow small kids near Sherry, let alone let them play tug of war with her.

As I write this on my laptop, Sherry is calling me to play tug of war, enticing me with her Pusa…Pusa towel in her mouth rubbing against my thigh, so here I go to play a vigorous bout of tug of war with Sherry.

Play a lot with your dog.

You dog will be happy and healthy - and you too!

Bow Wow!


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

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