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I know that growling isn't a bad thing when playing tug, but is it a good thing? As in, is it something to be desired and encouraged? Does it mean the dog is getting more into the game?

The reason I ask is: I've finally started getting Chisum to play tug with me, and it's even rewarding in some situations which is awesome! :thumbsup:

When we started, he was very ho-hum about tugging and never, ever growled during the game. Then, I started to notice if I reached around and touched his back while playing, sometimes he'd let out a growl. (Not an aggressive one). This morning we played and he even growled a bit on his own.

Again, I'm not at all concerned about it being dangerous but am wondering if this is the really awesome milestone I think it is or if I'm just getting excited over nothing.
 

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I imagine that it is different for every dog, but I find when Levi tugs and growls, it means he is getting AMPED. It's really good because when I take the toy, he is super quick to listen to cues because he knows we are going to play again, so personally I like it and think it's funny.
 

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Zody growls like a dog possessed when playing with his toys. I think it's really cute and funny so I encourage it and tend to get him amped up. I do pause in the playing to make sure he's still having fun and wants to continue the game and he nearly always does. He also has great impulse control and doesn't get out of control with the playing so I see no need to change how we play.

I'd just pause in the play to make sure Chisum is having fun, wants to continue playing like y'all are, and that the play isn't beginning to annoy him.
 
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Aspen isn't a barker at all but when we're playing, she growls and barks and is super vocal! It typically means (for her) that she's really, really into the game haha. So, you know your dog. If you think it's a milestone, celebrate away! :)
 

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Freyja growls like crazy when we play tug. It seems she is really into it, she loves tug and is always bringing her toys over and pushing them into me to play with her. We play tug for a bit then I tell her to give and when she does I toss the toy for her. She always brings it back to play some more. But for her the growling seems to be excitement and something good.
 

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My dogs have always "play" growled...however it was always very discernible from their "go away bad guy" growl. It varies from dog to dog...my terriers did it alot less but my german shepard and GSD mixes are rather vocal.
 

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Is she having fun? Are you having fun? It's that easy.
But, if you feel she's growling because she's getting to worked up or tense, ease off. I'll bet you know her well enough.
I growl when a game of tug gets good--can't help myself, it just happens. :)
 

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Growls are simply a vocalization, neither good nor bad, absent context. In this case the context is play, so it's a good vocalization. Sounds to me the addition of tug to the repetoire has awoken some prey drive in your dog. The benefit is if you nurture this, is you can crossover to tug as a reward for training. A very powerful training tool, :thumbsup:
 

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Aspen isn't a barker at all but when we're playing, she growls and barks and is super vocal! It typically means (for her) that she's really, really into the game haha. So, you know your dog. If you think it's a milestone, celebrate away! :)
This also perfectly describes Betsy :)
 

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@JudyG - I think it's really cute when she does it. :) Although one time, I was busy doing something and she wanted to play. After bringing her toy over a few times, she looked at me, barked once and took her toy in the other room. I swear she gave me the middle finger in that moment haha
 

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Thanks all! I'm sure if he wasn't having fun he'd just plain leave, but it's exciting to see it as rewarding for him. I was just sure he'd only ever be motivated by food. ;)
 

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@JudyG - I think it's really cute when she does it. :) Although one time, I was busy doing something and she wanted to play. After bringing her toy over a few times, she looked at me, barked once and took her toy in the other room. I swear she gave me the middle finger in that moment haha
Hahaha!! Betsy will play tug, then slope off behind something to hide her stash! They are so entertaining aren't they!!?? :D
 

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@PoppyKenna I hate being a shill, but if you pm me I can recommend a couple of videos that are excellent for playing tug as a reward and trasitionING from food to tug.
 

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With Chess it can be a sign she's starting to get too intense, which can lead to trouble so I have to watch it with her.

But for Echo it's all just play growls and all in good fun. I think generally it's a perfectly good thing, just occasionally with some dogs it can be a sign of trouble.
 

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Given your description of him growling when you touched him while tugging, I would wonder if he didn't feel a little pressured/defensive, hence the growl? Other signs might be eye contact getting more "hard", tail wag/position change or cessation, or rebiting/change of grip. I wouldn't worry about it, but I also wouldn't go out of my way to try to get him to growl. You can acclimate him to that sort of contact during tug if you want (I've done some of that with Bus), but I don't think it's a big deal either way. Some people say that growlier tuggers tend to be weaker nerved than quieter ones, but I've seen dogs of both types who do and who don't. My dog with the hardest temperament never growled when playing tug (she would whine if losing her grip), I've also had a confident, tough dog who would growl as well as bark when she really got into it, lol.
 

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Yoki growls when we really get into tug play but if I think she's getting too growly or worked up, I ask her to drop it and sit then reward by tossing the toy for her. I just want her to know that there is a limit to what is acceptable. It's also a good chance to reinforce training when she's really worked up.
 

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No, I don't think it's a particularly good thing in tug. Mostly because growling is a sign that the dog is getting over aroused. If you're playing tug just for the fun of it, probably not a big deal (unless the dog is big enough to start pulling you around). But if you want to use tug as a training reward you want to keep the dog below that level of over arousal where their brain starts to get frantic and unfocused. When the dog is aroused to that point it can be harder to get an "out", harder to get the dog to perform cues for the reward, bring the toy back, etc. It can mean that the dog is getting more possessive of the toy, trying really hard to "win it", instead of enjoying the interactive game you're playing together. When my older dog starts growling I know he won't want to give it up and he won't want to bring it back because he's so excited to just have it and go rip it up. At that point it's kind of useless for training purposes.

Some dogs are just really growly and will growl pretty much any time they play tug. But for the most part I try to take the play down a notch in intensity when they start growling.
 

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My 2 cents....

At this point in the game, the growling is a good thing because you are developing Chisum's bite, and it is showing he is investing his deepest layer of reserve energy into the tug activity. However, you want to aim to go beyond that to push-of-war which indicates he is giving his deepest energy to YOU.

This is why "pushing" with dogs is so valuable.
 

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@Elrohwen a bit more on the advanced side, but some would argue that it's at that level of drive where training actually begins, after all I really could careless if my dogs sits when I'm alone in my living room, but they respond instantly when at heightened levels of drive. :ponder:
Again growling is simply a vocalization, I find it often breed based, and then individual personality dependent. GSDs for example tend to be very vocal,so are more likely to growl, snarl, bark while playing, compared to more stoic breeds like Dobes or Rotties. Funny enough, this is why my girls rarely play with any dogs other then Shepherds and a few selected Rotties (who's parents I know) :)
As for arousal, generally, and no offense to the OP,I've haven't watched you play tug, but most people tend to tug for too long, leading to the over stimulation. To clarify, I don't mean how long you play, but how long each engagement lasts.
I know from the looks I get in person and the forum debates I've had in the past, people underestimate the complexities of tug, but it is quite a technical game to play with your dog, and there are right and wrong ways to play it.
 

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I'm confused. The beginning of your post disagrees with me:

@Elrohwen a bit more on the advanced side, but some would argue that it's at that level of drive where training actually begins, after all I really could careless if my dogs sits when I'm alone in my living room, but they respond instantly when at heightened levels of drive. :ponder:
I would argue that over stimulation has nothing to do with drive and isn't a state where training is going to be very useful. Drive and arousal are the entire point of training with tug, but if you put your dog in a state of over arousal where he can't think or only wants to possess the tug, it's not longer very useful.

Later in your post you basically agree with my point entirely:
As for arousal, generally, and no offense to the OP,I've haven't watched you play tug, but most people tend to tug for too long, leading to the over stimulation. To clarify, I don't mean how long you play, but how long each engagement lasts.
And I did say that it's very dependent on the dog. Some are more vocal than others. But it sounded like the OP's dog is fairly quiet and then suddenly starts growling, and that's the point where I would say to take the arousal level down a notch.
 
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