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Tug-of-war with dog a bad idea

(ran HL HS HC editions)

Question: My new puppy loves it when my wife and I play tug-of-war games using a towel or sock. The dog grabs the cloth and pulls for dear life and growls.

Can this hurt the dog in any way?

Answer: Many pet owners mean well when they do this, but it can have two harmful side effects.

It can make your pet "mouth-oriented" so that, when it misses your presence, it may begin chewing things that remind it of you, such as valuable clothing left out in your bedroom.

It also may cause the dog to become more aggressive and develop biting tendencies resulting in bites to you, your wife and others.

Puppies chew for the same reasons human babies do, to experience the texture and the taste of their environment via oral senses, but when you play tug-o-war games your create tremendous psychological frustration for your new puppy or an older dog.

You might think of it like pulling the dog's tail. They don't like that either. _ Don Morgan, D.V.M., Bluffs Animal Hospital, Belleair Bluffs.


A few readers have called or written about the April 25 column indicating that I may not have given the whole story on raising rescued wild birds. Some good points were made, and I appreciate the opportunity to make clarifications.

The question was "How should you feed a wild baby bird that has fallen out of its nest?" Answers in this column have space limitations and cannot discuss all aspects of every issue, but the comments of readers that should be mentioned and emphasized are:

It is best not to interfere with nature by trying to rescue fledglings that may be simply trying their wings.

All native species of birds are protected under Fish and Wildlife laws. You are required to obtain a permit to become a wildlife rehabilitator.

The best approach may be to contact a reputable licensed wildlife rehabilitator as well as seeking veterinary medical care for obviously injured or sick birds. You may also contact the nearest wildlife sanctuary or humane society. _ Katherine Murphy, D.V.M., Animal and Bird Hospital of Clearwater, Clearwater

Dr. Bruce Kaplan is a veterinarian editor/writer. Please send questions to Ask a Veterinarian, Pinellas Animal Foundation, P.O. Box 47771, St. Petersburg, FL 33743-7771. Because of the volume of mail, personal replies are not possible. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column.