Tugging and swapping toys (the picture is fairly recent, we have a our tug games going well). This was one of the first things I worked on with him. The usual strategies of swapping one toy for another weren’t working initially; he wanted them both, got them both and wouldn’t give either of them back as I’ve mentioned in part 2. However, we are slaves to our our reinforcement history and this has always worked in the past so I persevered (this is a set of behaviours we label as stubborn; we must look at both sides of the human-dog relationship). As a result, he would either have both toys or he would have one while dragging me about trying to get the other one. Johhny, covered in sweat and grass stains, Logan worked up to 50,000 feet again.
Next strategy, which was suggested by a very experienced trainer; the theory – put the tug on a long line, let him have it and then tug on the line to give him his game. He would then start to bring it back to me if I gave him slack. The reality – Logan is on two leads (harness and collar, see part 1), now I have the toy on a line to handle too. The result – in his giant terrier head shaking madness, both leads, the line and the toy are all wrapped round his head, my legs and his mouth. I also discovered during this event that he also likes to chew through ropes (yes, I know, this is information he could have given me prior to these genius human ideas – the dog knows best).
You may be asking why I didn’t just stop playing tug with him. The answer has a few layers. Firstly, he’s a bulldog and it’s in his genetics, he needs to tug. Not allwoing him to tug would be the equivalent of not giving hearding dogs an outlet for hearding or a sighthound the opportunity to run. He needs it. Secondly, he was still in boarding kennels and needed some outlet for his energy which I was doing my best to provide. Thirdly, I was trying to build some sort of bond with him based on shared, mutually enjoyable behaviours.
Now, I’d like you to imagine what this all looks like. The humour in it doesn’t escape me and I did my best to keep a sense of humour about this but the reality was the boy is really struggling to cope and in distress. So, again, back to the drawing board!