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Physical cues on a pup going into defense?

1981 Views 8 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Bob Scott
Bob, a comment you made in another thread about inadvertently flipping a dog from prey into defense via overaggressive tug work got me thinking...what should I be looking for?

I dont' think this is a problem with me, but I guess I had always assumed that flipping a pup into defense would make it bail out on the activity or do something else weird (like growling/snapping before or after that activity, or seeming to target at me rather than the sleeve, laying down her ears and growling when presented with the tug, whatever). I always give her room to bail if she's not into it (and she'll always drop the tug if a retrieve toy option is given to her) and I always let her win and she'll always out the thing if I tell her. I have gotten some growls in the past when I've lightly slapped her side while on tug (seeing if she'd stay on the tug) but I cut that out because I felt like I was doing something stupid and pointless. She's also growled a bit when I got a bit into it but I took that as either a by product of the surface we were on (in winter we did a lot of tug on tile in the house and her footing was not great) or maybe pain from teething (you already know how I was being stupid there).

Any thoughts you or others have on distinguishing a flip from prey into defense in a pup/young dog would be appreciated.
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I just realized I'd addressed this to Bob only...I'd like lots of feedback from lots of folks on how they think dogs will show defensiveness.
A lot of this depends on the dog. Some will stress much easier then others. Tail drop, hackles up, ears back are all things that can indicate the dog is stressing. It's ok if done corectly, at the right time by a GOOD helper but not necessarily with the handler doing the work.
A lot of people consider a dog that is growling on the sleeve to be stressed. I suppose some really strong dogs will still growl out of frustration and/or real aggression. That's all in reading the dog IMHO.
My terrieres have ALWAYS been nasty little growlers, even when playing with a rag all by them selves. It just seems to be in their nature.
Slapping on the side while the dog is on the sleeve can produce stress. Leaning over the dog while it's on the sleeve can cause stress. threats with a stick, yelling, all can cause stress. Even strong eye contact can cause stress in some dogs.
These are all things that can be done by a good helper to develope a dogs confidence. Even in a genetically strong dog, it still takes a good helper to avoid going to far to fast.
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Thanks Bob. As usual, you got me thinking about what I am doing wrong. #-o
When working the tug, believe it or not, among many things i look at are the eyes. The eyes should be locked, straight ahead, focused. When the dog is going into defense you can often see them shift. It's almost as if the dog is looking for an escape route.

Good point David. Our helper has also commented about the dogs blinking under stress also.
edited for duplication
That's great input and seems accurate in my situation. I've definitely seen her shift her eyes out when I did the side-slapping thing (let me emphasize again this was not hard at all but I realized it was a bad idea). Definitely helps.
Do you all think it's a mistake to play tug with a pup/young dog on tile (slippery surface)? I tend to think it makes her focus on her grip, etc. but I guess it could just as well make her unsteady and nervy. I guess it's probably another one of those "varies by the individual dog" things, right? I just realized that, with a nervy dog, engaging tug with them on a slippery surface might be a little like table training.

We aren't on tile anymore now that there is not a foot of snow on the ground, btw. Now we are outside and freaking out my neighbors.
I think it's to much stress on a puppy's bones/muscles if it's constantly trying to keep it's footing on a slick surface. Avoidance of slick floors is not uncommon in some Mals. If that's the case, work on it sloooowly to build confidence. Not necessarily hard play.
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