How Not to Play Tug With a Dog

March 28, 2010 at 7:17 pm 28 comments

This report from WRCB Chattanooga brings us the amazing story of a dog that attacked a police car.While the officer was trolling for speeders, Winston decided to have a go at his cruiser. As the dog attacked the tires and bumper of the car, the police officer hit him with pepper spray and even tased him. Nonplussed, Winston simply pulled the electrodes out and went on with his ‘work’.

Here’s another view of the attack:

A few things stood out to me. First, notice how the officer moves his cruiser slowly back and forth as Winston tugs on his bumper. About 0:45 seconds into the video, another officer tells the driver “Keep your car still man.”  I’m not sure if he was worried other guy is going to run over the dogs over or if he has realized that the back and forth action of the other car is just egging the dog on, but I like this guy’s instincts a lot better than the other fellow’s.

Dog training 101 – when a dog is pulling or tugging on something you don’t want him to – DO NOT PULL BACK. When you pull back you’re playing the dog’s game and engaging his oppositional reflexes. Engaging in a series of interactions where you pull, then stop and then pull again is an even worse idea. In effect, the police officer was playing a rousing game of tug of war with a very driven dog and letting him win.

Also, shocking a dog who has little or not prior training and is fully engaged in attacking or tugging on something without giving the dog direction on what to do at the same time often gives on the result apparently seen here: it just makes the dog go at it with more gusto.

This was probably the most fun Winston (who has a thing for power equipment anyway) has had in months.

Notice that at about 1:15 a siren temporarily stops the dog. If the tug toy car was put into park and both cars let their sirens blare, they may have been able to stop the game.

At about 2:00 dog pulls the shell of the bumper completely off and struts away with his prize. The officer almost escapes at this point, but because he does it cautiously, the dog gets a chance to go after his tires.

The first time I saw a clip of this episode I assumed the dogs were running loose. I was wrong, the dogs escaped from the welding shop where they’re kept. I’m glad that was the case. And while the officer involved didn’t act like an experienced dog trainer, I am completely and utterly thrilled that he and his fellow officers reacted with restraint so that Winston and his canine buddies weren’t shot. I’m also relieved to hear that animal control has no plans to euthanize him.

The Calgary Herald reports that Winston has been placed on probation and ordered to complete obedience training. I strongly recommend that his owners also invest in a more secure fencing option.

His owners said they had no clue why he went wild that day, chewing through two fences and attacking four cars.

He’d never shown any aggression before that day, owner Nancy Emerling told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Here’s your clue: A wonderful, strong, smart, high-energy dog with a history of going after lawn equipment and hasn’t received enough mental and physical exercise – or proper training – was left unsupervised in an inadequately fenced area, got bored, found a way to escape and discovered a ‘buddy’ who played a wonderful, rousing game of tug of war with him. Fortunately, his buddy didn’t run Winston over or shoot him.

I hope Winston has the same kind of luck with his owner’s new training program…


Entry filed under: dogs, pit bull, pitbull. Tags: .

Just A Little Kinky Links to Make you Think

28 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Wild Dingo  |  March 28, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    hear hear! i felt the same way when i saw this a day or so ago. i was like, why is that car moving back and forth? but then an inexperienced police person wouldn’t know that is like a tug game. can’t fault that guy! but to leave high drive dogs with not enough mental and physical activity is not a good thing either. glad owner gets to learn about trainining! that’s always a good thing.

    and um, he attacked FOUR cars that day? WTF? if my dog attacked ONE car, it would be his LAST ever car attack (ok so he does like to chase them but not so much anymore due to TRAINING!)

  • 2. H. Houlahan  |  March 28, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    I wonder why all the focus is on Winston, and not a peep about his peeps, who were clearly egging him on?

  • 3. SmartDogs  |  March 28, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Because eggers-on almost always get off scot-free.

    The brown egger was clearly having A Very Good Time but I thought that the black one had a bit more of a Danger Will Robinson vibe going on.

  • 4. Jan Gribble  |  March 28, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    The ending of the first clip suggested (to me) that the owner wasn’t considering training but a more permanent solution.

  • 5. perri  |  March 29, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Same interpretation as Jan. Hoping this is not so. 😦

  • 6. Christopher@BorderWars  |  March 29, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Your take away is that this dog needs a lesson in manners? Are you going to next tell us that this dog is like every other breed and that you’d feel safe being locked in a room with it?

    This dog needs to be put down. Kudos to the owner for getting that right. The dog attacked a PARKED car, not on its property, not defending anyone, no one was poorly handling this dog. And it didn’t stop even after being pepper sprayed and TASERed.

    HAH! Is your training going to remove the gameness of this dog? Is an e-collar going to stop a dog that didn’t care about a TASER?

    The only thing that should be able to tear a car apart at a welding shop is a professional with a torch.

  • 7. ruthcrisler  |  March 29, 2010 at 6:05 am

    I would take that dog into training. It could be a bit of a chore, or not, but the car attacks themselves don’t say “shouldn’t live another day” to me, at least given a committed owner (difficult to gauge). Heck, if I were closer I might volunteer the training, ’cause I don’t think I’m ever going to find a better “before” video EVER.

    Granted, it’s possible I might feel differently after meeting him, and I might take a few extra precautions when loading him up in the van, like possibly blindfolding him….

    By the way, I really enjoyed the analysis on this. My thoughts exactly. I think the black dog and the other cop were on the same wavelength.

  • 8. Amy@GoPetFriendly  |  March 29, 2010 at 6:39 am

    I hope that the owner at the end of the video was just having an initial reaction, and once he had more time to think about he reconsiders his solution to the problem!

    To Christopher – how many people have been put to death for slashing the tires of a car? Would you jump to the conclusion that their next offense would be to commit murder?? The relationship between damage to property and attacking a human is negligible at best.

  • 9. Eleanor  |  March 29, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Oh. Thank. God. Commentary from a real dog person. This idea of just puttng a bullet thru his head is bullsh*t. I don’t believe there is any proven correlation between destruction of inanimate property and aggression. If so, the world would be littered with dead victims of stick-chewing Labradors who went on to be serial killers.

    To Christopher: Yes, I absolutely would feel safe locked in a room with that dog. I think we’d have a grand ol’ time. I admire his drive. I’d enjoy a chance to redirect it to something positive.

    I sincerely hope his owners take advantage of the second chance they’ve been given.

  • 10. SmartDogs  |  March 29, 2010 at 7:56 am

    No, if you read this carefully, what I took away from this was that the dog’s owners are irresponsible, and this incident was their fault, not his.

    However, as to your other point – I would not hesitate to be locked in a room with this dog. I regularly lock myself into a large-ish training room with dogs that are a lot nastier than this one. Some of them are dogs that have severely bitten people, and some of them are dogs of breeds and mixes that many places ban. Of course I could be surprised after seeing Winston in person, but this particular dog does not raise any red flags to me. He looks like just the kind of dog I tend to like – smart, strong-willed, energetic and fun-loving.

    Eating bumpers is not at all in the same league with eating people. Killing and eating animals is a completely different issue than being human aggressive as well. I help regular, every-day pet owners retrain dogs who eat couches, tires, firewood, chickens, bunnies and even goats on a regular basis. So no, a bumper-eating dog doesn’t scare me.

  • 11. Christopher@BorderWars  |  March 29, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Do you have something at your training center more potent to stop a dog like this than a TASER or pepperspray?

    We have a dog, so game, and so powerful (you go try popping a tire with your teeth) that stopping it if it attacked would be out of ability of all but anyone carrying a gun.

    Start the countdown to Congo part 2. We’ll see this dog’s name in the news again, and not in a good way.

  • 12. ruthcrisler  |  March 29, 2010 at 8:07 am

    I have something more powerful than a taser at my training facility. I call it TRAINING.

  • 13. Christopher@BorderWars  |  March 29, 2010 at 8:08 am

    I agree with you that the owners are irresponsible. Another part of the problem: people don’t change.

    The court ordered TWO obedience classes are going to have to be miraculous.

    And the only thing that doesn’t make that video horrific is that it’s a cop car (no one has sympathy for a patrol car’s bumper, and the gusto is rather hilarious).

    But it stands that only exhaustion was finally able to stop that dog. That is the scary thing, that can’t be trained away.

    I’d say the same thing about a Border Collie who couldn’t be stopped destroying a couch if it was TASERed and peppersprayed and kept attacking. And that’s what this dog is doing, it’s attacking the car.

    And that car is a lot more robust than any human.

  • 14. SmartDogs  |  March 29, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Knowledge is power. As I said before – I work with large dogs who have “attacked” couches, goats – and even people. And I’m a fat, middle-aged broad, not a mesomorphic martial artist.

    A 175-pound Rottweiler who thought it was fun to chase and attack passers-by. A 150 pound Malamute who would bite you if you touched him. A 100-pound Chow mix that had bitten fingers off two different people. A 125-pound Leonberger that took down and killed an adult deer. They all learned to give it up. No tasers. No pepper spray. In most cases, no shock collars. Their owners successfully learned to change their behavior to understand and change the dogs’ behavior.

    Understanding is the key here. As I’ve posted here before, outside of Hollywood, working with an aggressive dog is like watching paint dry. I don’t set a dog off then dominate it into submission, I use skill to keep the dog calm while I teach him what to do instead of acting aggressively. Shocking, tasering or pepper spraying an animal that is caught up in a strong emotional reaction (whether fearful, aggressive or amped-up happy) is not training. And it’s very rarely effective. Even with a biddable breed like a Border Collie.

    The bumper is a rather flimsy fiberglass item. And, as I note in my post, the officer inadvertently did a bang-up job of egging the dog on. I’ve worked with worse and while I can’t say whether or not the owners are capable of rehabilitation, I still remain convinced that the dog is.

  • 15. ruthcrisler  |  March 29, 2010 at 8:26 am

    My old ’65 Mustang would not have given its bumper anywhere near so willingly.

  • 16. SmartDogs  |  March 29, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Nor my ’36 Dodge pickup. I used it a few times to knock over small trees.

    I wanted to add here that Winston has been released from animal control because he was friendly and well-behaved while confined there.

  • 17. Amy@GoPetFriendly  |  March 29, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I love this blog!

  • 18. Christopher@BorderWars  |  March 29, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Yes, it’s true, he didn’t hurt a single living thing. I didn’t say he was an uncontrollable monster, I said he was uncontrollable.

    On paper, this is a dog that did $200 (they must get tires cheap) in property damage. It’d be wonderful if the story stopped there. I don’t think it will.

  • 19. Eleanor  |  March 29, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I am reminded of Vicki Hearne’s writing, I believe it was in Bandit, where she described teaching the trained retrieve to her bully breeds. If I recall correctly (I may be paraphrasing badly: it’s been years since I read Bandit) that it was only when they had to overcome significant obstacles, such as having to scale a 10 foot wall, that the retrieve fully engaged these dogs’ imagination and commitment.

    Can you imagine what a MAGNIFICENT retriever Winston could be?

    And if nothing else, he’d be delivering the squad car to hand and releasing it on command, so it’d be a huge improvement over the last outcome.

    With all due seriousness, I sincerely hope these owners hook up with a professional trainer who can deliver the results they need and follow through on the program. To fail this dog now would be a horrible injustice.

  • 20. H. Houlahan  |  March 29, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Boy, I know someone who should never watch a really powerful schutzhund dog engage the helper.

    Winston is exactly the kind of dog that I LIKE to train. Well, one of the several kinds. I charge extra — a LOT extra — for genuinely aggressive dogs. I might give Winston’s owners a discount based on the fun we’d have.

    For example, see how, when engaged in the Battle of the Bumper, Winston never redirected onto either of the other dogs?

    That’s some gooood temperament there.

  • 21. Jess  |  March 29, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    That brown dog is having a good old time egging on his friend, isn’t he? The cop could’ve saved his tires if he’d just have STAYED PUT after the dogs got their prize and started moving off.

  • 22. Christopher@BorderWars  |  March 29, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Schutzhund is about precision and control. That dog is out of control.

    Engaging the helper wouldn’t be a problem, it would be disengaging him. Auss? Yeah, not so much.

    And Schutzhund would be the last thing I’d rehab that dog with. The only reason the dog isn’t dead is because it attacked a car and not a human. Would we really want to train him that it’s OK to bite a human?

  • 23. EmilyS  |  March 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Winston is absolutely NOT “out of control”. He is engaging in a very controlled game of tug with a willing partner (at least willing in HIS mind). And not only did he not redirect onto either of the other dogs, as HHoulahan points, out, he didn’t redirect onto the cop who tased him (ouch! that must hurt, even to a dog in overdrive) either.

    Some people are astonishingly ignorant about drives in dogs.

    Some people, even some people who favor herding dogs, are astonishingly ignorant about the variety of behaviors that manifest the innate prey drive of the canine species, in virtually every breed. Hint: herding is an aspect of prey drive. So is tugging. Dogs that herd, and dogs that tug, do NOT correlate to dogs that bite humans (a behavior rarely associated with prey drive).

    But then, some people are determined that no pit bull be left alive, whatever its behavior or temperament.

    Some people lie when they say they would react the same to a similar story about their favorite breed.

  • 24. ruthcrisler  |  March 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I don’t believe anyone was suggesting he ought to be started in Schutzhund next week. The point is that dogs with a hell of a lot more drive than Winston get handled and trained to be reliable everyday.

    The manifest difference between Winston’s hi jinx and Schutzhund’s “precision and control” is the level of training of the dog, not the quality or stability of the dog itself.

  • 25. Christopher@BorderWars  |  March 29, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    EmilyS, that dog is not under control in any sense of the word.
    * He’s not confined to the property he should be in.
    * Even with extreme measures of control, he did not stop his attack.
    * Being under control means to accept direction and have another being determine your actions.

    Way to blame the victim. If a parked car is a “willing partner” to be torn apart, are we going to say the same thing when it’s a person?

    OMFG, the cop totally egged the dog on! you say? Should we say the same thing of a human walking down that street who would naturally pull back from the dog or run away? Would they be asking for it? Would we blame them too?

    Oh gosh, in the dog’s mind they were just willing participants in a play fight!

    Should the burden be placed on the victim or the perpetrator?

    We don’t have video of the pepper spray or the TASER, nor of the final capture of this dog, so it’d be prudent not to use them in support of how wonderful Winston is.

    What we do know is that the two most potent non-lethal deterrents didn’t dissuade this dog. Is this a quality we want in a breed where 99% of them will never be trained or handled to a standard to control such power?

    I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s responsible to unleash a dog or a breed that can’t be stopped by a layperson.

    I personally see no reason such a dog should even exist. There’s no greater good being served by having an animal that is both so powerful and undeterred.

    And don’t blame ME for wanting pit bulls dead. The pitt bull community is doing a smashing job of creating a genocide of these dogs themselves. The numbers don’t lie, the IDEA of owning such a dog far surpasses the reality.

    More than any other dog, and perhaps all other dogs put together, owners of these dogs decide to throw them away.

  • 26. Eleanor  |  March 29, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Christopher, I don’t know anything about you. Help me to understand your perspective. Do you do any work with your dogs? Have you done any canine rehabilitation?

    A quick perusal of your blog shows you’re a breeder. Are you a trainer?

  • 27. EmilyS  |  March 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Christopher, it’s so hard to take seriously someone who cannot read (let alone reason). No one has said the cop egged on Winston, except by pointing out that he is (inadvertently, no doubt) engaging the dog in what TO THE DOGS MIND is a classic invitation to tug, that is pulling the tug toy back and forth. Do you tug with your dogs?– if not, tell me that you DONT tug this way. The cop was not hurt and is not a “victim”.. and of course inanimate objects like cars are not “victims” either. The cars were damaged.. and not “destroyed” as your cohort in pit bull hatred posted on his blog. Shoot us those of us entertained by this video: it’s kind of funny that one dog can do so much damage to some cars. If it were a different breed, you’d find it funny too. Your hysteria about the danger to people from this dog is just that: hysteria. The dog AT NO TIME, and even under provocation, tried to bite anyone.

    As for your dishonest use of discredited statistics: “numbers don’t lie” of course.. except in the category of the 3 famous lies: “lies, damned lies and statistics”.

  • 28. Christopher@BorderWars  |  March 30, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Insults get you nowhere EmilyS. Especially when they are inaccurate.

    To quote the post: “the back and forth action of the other car is just egging the dog on.”

    Now if the rocking the car is an “invitation to tug” what was the invitation to bite the bumper in the first place? And isn’t THAT the problem. Unprovoked (we shall assume until evidence suggests otherwise) this dog decided to attack the bumper.

    The cop is the direct victim, the tax payer the indirect victim. The dog is the perpetrator. This is simple and obvious. If the destruction of your property doesn’t make one a victim, then I fear for your sense of justice. After all, to the law, all of our dogs are simply our property.

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