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Canine Behavior/Dog playing


My dog is a dachshund/ border collie and I adopted him when he was 1 1/2 years old. He is 3 years old now. When we first got him he was very energetic but didn't wag his tail very much, now he wags it much more adamantly and often. When I play with him he seems to enjoy himself by 'bowing' and growling in a non-aggressive way. But while I'm playing with him during tug of war or something similar he doesn't wag his tail during the activity. He seems to enjoy himself and re-initiates play when I stop, but if he doesn't wag his tail is he really having fun? Or does it not mean anything at all?

A dog can wag its tail while in full attack mode with intention to harm (a human, another dog, a cat, etc.)  Perhaps the tug of war game is being taken a big too seriously with your DoxieX.  I suggest you use the take it/leave it technique found here on Dr. Ian Dunbar's web site to teach your dog to "leave it" on command:

Once your dog has learned "leave it" is rewarding, he will follow your cue (command); at that point, YOU keep the toy. Stand up and walk away WITH the toy.  You must understand that "play" to a dog is not quite the same thing as "play" to a child.  In the dog culture, "play" is FUN (if both dogs have solid temperament) BUT it is, first and foremost, a test of social hierarchy.  Between two dogs that know each other well, ONE will be higher in social hierarchy than the other (perceptible only to someone who can expertly read dog body language or an experienced owner); during tug of war, both dogs will be enjoying the experience but ONE will always acquiesce to the other (given that all things remain the same in their relationship).

His re-initiation of tug of war when you stop indicates to me that he is confused about social hierarchy because you do NOT keep the toy, you relinquish it.  Try the "take it/leave it" (and do not play tug of war with him until he learns to respond immediately) and you will see a different interaction.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

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Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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