When Monte lived with me, I had a few guy friends that always wanted to “rough him up.” They wanted to pick him up, wrestle with him, tackle him, and in general, harass and molest him. For some reason, they saw this giant breed dog as a challenge – as if both he and they were drunken frat boys in a competition for a macho man title.
As those of you who know me may imagine, this really steamed by beans. It meant that I had to be more confrontational than I’d like with my friends, “laying down the law.” It also, unfortunately, meant that my old bartending skills occasionally had to kick in, and I would literally have to “cut them off” from Monte access – if you insist on harassing him, you can’t play with him anymore.
These friends thought I was terribly rude, overly anal, and often felt offended when I no longer allowed them to spend time around Monte. Not wanting to stereotype or point fingers, all of these friends were men.
Some of them have since indicated an impatience at wanting to meet the new puppy. Partially because they know it gets me upset and partially because they think this is an acceptable way to interact with dogs, they have told me, “I can’t wait to rough Cuba up and wrestle with him!” Needless to say, none of these individuals have yet spent time with my dog.
Not long ago, my sister, Shannon, called me asking if my 11-year old niece and 4-year old nephew could spend the night at the house.
Shannon’s kids are fantastic and a joy to have at my house. Additionally, it’s a great socialization opportunity for Cuba and fantastic enrichment opportunity for Mokie to have kids temporarily live in our house, even though Jim and I have no plans to have children of our own.
Imagine if I’d said to Shannon, “please do bring them over! I’ve been watching WWE a lot lately and have some new moves I’d like to try out on Malachi (my toddler nephew). In particular, I can’t wait to body slam him, try a choke hold, smash chairs over his head, implement an atomic drop, a powerslam, and a spinebreaker!”
Do you think Shannon would still want my nephew to spend the night? If not, would it be because she was an “anal, uptight, neglectful” mom or because she didn’t want to endanger the welfare of her child? How many of my readers that are parents would want to send a child to me for care if I told them my first course of action would be hooking my elbow around their throat and throwing them down to the ground for “fun”?
Here’s the rub – Cuba is small and cute now. At less than thirty pounds, he doesn’t seem capable of causing a lot of damage. The fact of the matter is, Cuba will mature into an adult dog that weighs more than me. I don’t want to encourage any behaviors now, while he is a puppy, that will be unacceptable when he is a mature adult. I don’t want to teach him that it is ok to tackle or bite people in play. I don’t want to encourage knocking people over, or teach him that hands are better for biting than receiving treats from. These behaviors can become dangerous at best and lethal at worst in an adult dog, particularly a dog who will grow up to have one of the strongest bites in the canine world, as bite strength is directly proportionate to skull size.
There are virtually unlimited ways to play with a dog that do not encourage aggression. Played appropriately, tug is a great game with a dog that promotes bond between handler and owner while instilling a powerful life reward. Fetch, agility, nosework, puzzle games, training, swimming, etc., are all ways to play with your dog while encouraging appropriate behavior around humans.
You get the behavior you reward. If you reward violent, rough interactions with humans, your puppy will grow into a dog that finds these types of behaviors and interactions acceptable and enjoyable.
I generally try not to single anyone out, but guys are definitely the worst perps here. I’ve never had a girlfriend tell me she couldn’t wait to wrestle my puppy to the ground.
Rough play with dogs is best avoided, regardless of your dog’s age. It is far too easy to create and reinforce aggression when you make a concerted effort to teach a dog, through play, that aggression is a game.
I welcome virtually anyone to play with my puppy. The only exceptions are macho men that think it’s ok to manhandle an infant. All too often, these are the same people that create an aggression problem intentionally in puppies through their interactions and then, when the dog is full grown and biting and snapping at people “for fun,” say, “you can’t let that dog get away with that behavior!”
As a pet parent, it is my job to be my dog’s protector. Even if this occasionally, and unfortunately, means denying the “macho men” in my life access to time with my dogs.
If you don’t want an aggressive dog, don’t play with your dog in a manner which encourages aggression!