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August 23, 2012
by Miranda Logan
Category: Dog Behavior
An experimental study of the effects of play upon the dog-human relationship
Tug-of-War in dogs
The paper “An experimental study of the effects of play upon the dog-human relationship” by Rooney and Bradshaw is one of the first to examine if there is an effect on the dog-human relationship in relation to play.  Specifically, the type of play examined was tug-of-war. 
As so many people misuse the term, dominance, it was critical for the authors to define it in context of their study.  They used it to “describe a tendency of one member of a dyad to assert itself over priority to resources”.  The test subjects were 14 Golden Retrievers from a showing and breeding kennel.  They each played twenty games of tug-of-war which they lost and twenty games they won.  It was determined there was no effect on the human-dog relationship caused by playing this game. 
When talking to clients, surfing the internet and in popular literature, it is very easy to find advice with regards to this kind of play.  Basically, you should never do it because you will cause your dog to become aggressive and dominant.    If you take your 8 month old Labrador retriever to an outdoor dog show and play tug with him to have a little fun while you wait your turn in the ring, be aware.  You will have a number of people stop to tell you that you are a terrible owner.  It is nice to be able to smile and tell them about a paper that has been out for a number of years disproving that hypothesis.  
Rooney, N.J. and Bradshaw, J.W.S.  An experimental study of the effects of play upon the dog-human relationship  Applied Animal Behaviour Science 75 (2002) 161-176
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