Sunday, September 8, 2013

Leveling the playing field

I still remember being astounded, and then giddy, the first time I witnessed self-handicapping during dog play. That is, when a bigger/stronger/faster dog holds back a bit (or a lot) in order to make it a more fair — and more fun — game for the smaller guy.

The phenomenon is downright adorable, and with Mighty Tiny around, I get to see it all the time. The latest was yesterday’s three-way-tug fest between Tiny on the left, Kasbah in the middle, and Bonnie at right. When he first arrived at the Barn, Kasbah had a thing or two to learn about impulse control. But you’d never know from this scene  Kasbah could've easily yanked the toy right out of Tiny's mouth:

A few seconds later, Tiny has not only pinned the big dog to the ground, he's literally rubbing Kasbah's face in it as Bonnie looks on. 

And then as if planned, Bonnie strategically seizes the moment and runs off with the prize. I think Tiny and Kas are too busy rolling around and giggling to notice that it's gone.

Tiny, who's still a puppy, was even tinier when he first showed up at the Barn a few weeks ago. Soaking wet, he weighs about as much as one of Rhonda's dew claws. But here they are, tuggin' it out. With one whip of her head, the big girl could've sent Tiny flying. Instead, she keeps it challenging enough for her to feel like it's worth it, and easy enough for him that he stays in the game. Finally she seems to tell him, "Hey kid, can't win 'em all." Fair enough.


  1. Same at my house. I have five small dogs and one very big guy who every morning self adjusts so they can all play bitey face or tug for a while. He could easily have each one for breakfast. This has been going on since he joined our household last year. Fun to watch!

  2. The first time I saw Ray letting Julius tug him around the yard, I laughed and laughed. I didn't realize there was a phrase for it. I just called it being a good big brother. :-)

  3. My dog does this! Gumbino has a good dog friend in my in-law's elder Yellow Lab Hoover. They jump and play for as long as Hoover will last, and then for the next two hours they'll lay on the ground facing each other and play nip and make noise and paw at the other's paws and face. It's too adorable.


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