Watching Falka develop is absolutely amazing, but can be also frustrating at times… Unfortunately the changes she goes through are not always in the direction I would want! Tugging is a great example of this. As a baby pup (i.e. pre-teeth change) Falka was playing great, with vigorous and engaged tug. I chose to stop tugging, or at least limit it significantly, during the teeth change. And it appears that during these 2 months something switched off in her head. She is still very happy to play with me, both directly and with toys, with no signs of stress or conflict with me. In fact the problem lies in her pushing into (or under) me, rather than tugging on the toys. At the moment it feels to me that she doesn’t want to “fight against me”, even if it is just for fun.
As I noticed this drop in her attitude, I went first with the popular method of increasing her confidence by rewarding even very small steps toward tugging, e.g. pawing at the moving toy, grabbing it, putting even tiniest amount of resistance… I know that this is a great method and works well, but… I am a little impatient 😉 I also feel that as she enjoyed tug before (not like Yarpen to whom tugging had always seemed like a futile exercise) the proble lies more with her attitude, so there has to be a trick which would explain to her that even when tugging we can be one team…. I feel that in her head tugging is somewhat of a fight where we both try to win the toy. I would like her to think of it more as us ripping a prey into parts together (not necessarily the same thing as we will need for decoy work in the future, but at this stage I want her to actually enjoy tugging first).
A breakthrough in our tugging came about quite unexpectedly a couple of days ago while playing… with junk mail. A little backstory: both my dogs enjoy ripping cardboard into pieces, something pretty common to many dogs. I hold a piece of cardboard, they grab it, rip a piece off, spit it out and immediately come back to rip more off, until I have the tiniest of pieces in my hand, which of course they win. They don’t really play with the pieces on the floor, the game is in ripping it apart with me.
A few nights ago, I was cleaning up junk mail off the floor (in one piece, as it flew down the letter hole – another proof that cardboard and paper are only cool in my hands!) and just by chance, I rolled the ads into a baton of sorts and invited Falka to rip it apart. The paper was quite strong, so it gave her quite a bit of resistance. And…. She pulled! She tugged!! Admittedly, after winning she did lie down with the intention of disintegrating it, but luckily, Yarpen was at hand. I immediately rolled another one and invited Yarpen for the same game. I didn’t have to ask twice, and of course, us having fun acted like magnet on Falka. I let her win quite easily and was praising her with a lot of genuine happiness in my voice. I am now thinking of going back to cardboard first, which gives me the confidence she will succeed in my expectations, and giving it a cue, most likely “get it”. When I see she starts to recognize it, I will start cueing her to tug on stronger paper and gradually move to toys of various types. Hopefully it will work as planned!