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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tug Bouts

Ah, the joys of a good game of Tug. There's nothin' quite like it. Two forces pulling in opposite directions with only a plush toy in the middle. A battle of wills, of strategy, of physics.  And some happy growls and wagging tails.

It could be human or canine on the other end. Perhaps there's a slight change in attitude when the opponent is tugging with a mouth or a hand.  Nevertheless, it is one of the Best Games Ever. And it never gets old.

In our house, it's usually Lilah who starts the Tug Game. She'll pounce on one of the dozen or so plush toys we try to stow in a basket, but somehow wind up scattered all around the house. Then Lilah will thrash it back and forth in front of Jasper or Tucker, kind of like wiggling a worm or a fly in front of a fish--hoping it will bite.  Most often, it's Tucker who will take the bait.

Lilah tossing around a yellow bear, just hoping someone will play Tug.

Once someone "bites," the game is on. And once two are playing, the third--usually Jasper--just can't help himself and will join in, either by making it a three-way Tug, or by grabbing another toy to play with. This results in all kinds of permutations of who's Tugging with whom.

A plush snake is perfect for a Tug between Tucker and Lilah.

Tucker and Jasper put their hearts into a good competitive pull.

Sometimes, I get to join in the fun. Often, I'll play when there's one dog with butt up in the air, tail wagging, toy in mouth--and no takers. I can't resist. And often that's enough to get someone else inspired to get in the game. But not after I get to play a little.

Tucker grabs on and pulls.

Even if I'm not actively playing, Tug is a phenomenal spectator sport. Each dog has his or her own set of strategic maneuvers. And it's highly entertaining to watch how they try to best each other.

Jasper tends to rely on the fact that he's simply bigger than the other two. At 60 pounds, he outweighs them (Tucker is about 43 pounds, and Lilah 38), and he uses physics to his advantage.

Jasper's simplest trick is to just lay down--and hold on. Then the other dog, Tucker in this case, has to pull hard. I've actually seen Tucker drag Jasper several inches across the floor.

Always the Comfort Hound, Jasper finds it even more beneficial to lay in the bean bag dog bed, as it is even harder for the opponent in the Tug. And, of course, it's more Comfortable that way. 

While laying down, Jasper will also use his paw for leverage.

Or Jasper will put his opponent in a head lock to unbalance her, which is even more effective on the unstable surface of the beanbag.

Lilah is a little more strategic. She uses mind games and a more thoughtful approach to Tug; depending on who she is playing with, she employes different techniques.

Lilah likes to twist the Tug toy, particularly when playing with Tucker. Holding on to the Tug, Tucker winds up on his back--and Lilah gains the advantage.

For Jasper, Lilah tends to use The Stare. She'll hold on tight to a Tug, look deep into Jasper's eyes, and growl. And Jasper gives in.

Tucker's methods combine the intelligence of Lilah's mind games with the leverage of physics.

Tucker pulls next to objects like a couch, or under tables or around corners. The other dog can't follow the Tug around the obstacles.

Tucker will cut a corner real tight, and his Tug opponent will either let go or wind up with her head smushed against the table.

To the victor go the spoils, and once someone wins a bout of Tug, he or she gets to play with the Tug toy.

Tucker claims his half of the snake; it snapped in two during a particularly intense Tug.

Jasper enjoys a nice chew.

And Lilah disembowels her prize.

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