While some trainers still aren't comfortable recommending the game, others believe you have to take it on a dog-by-dog basis. For a dog with aggression issues, it's probably not a good idea. But for a good-natured, well-socialized, well-trained family dog who knows the game is just . . . well, a game, it's probably fine. In fact, some trainers use tug-of-war as a reward or motivator after a strong performance in canine competitions.
Q. Do dogs really hate cats?
A. Dogs chasing cats were a staple of the cartoons we all watched when we were growing up. But one of the reasons we like dogs so much is that hate just doesn't seem to be part of their makeup. Do some dogs chase cats? Do some dogs kill cats? The answer is, unfortunately, "yes" in both cases. But the reason isn't because of some deep-seated cross-species animosity.
Cats occupy a fairly interesting ecological niche, right in the middle of the food chain: They are both predators and prey. Their skills as a predator are obvious, but to many bigger predators-especially urban coyotes and some dogs-a cat pretty much looks like a tricky to catch but still tasty lunch. Some dogs are more into the prey thing than others, but for dogs who like to hunt for themselves, a cat is just another item on the menu. As the saying goes, "It's strictly business, nothing personal."
Behaviorists say that dogs who kill smaller animals or act aggressively toward other dogs are not necessarily a danger to humans. In fact, many are very reliable family pets. But they do need to be kept away from other animals. That means not just cats but also gerbils, ferrets, rabbits, birds, squirrels, and anything else you don't want to find dangling from their mouths.
There are also dogs who will naturally chase anything that moves, from an animal to a bicyclist to a plastic bag blowing in the wind. These dogs will happily chase a cat and may even bite if they catch one, but would probably back off if the cat unsheathed her razor-sharp claws and promised to use them.
Finally, there are plenty of dogs who don't mind cats at all, and who even love the cats they know well.
While you can't say for certain which category any particular dog will fall into, you can make some general assumptions. Terriers, for example, were developed to be vermin killers, and many of these dogs have the detached professionalism of a gangland hit man when it comes to dispatching rodents such as mice, rats, and hamsters, and sometimes even smaller pets such as cats. Herding dogs, and sighthounds (dogs who hunt by visually sighting their prey) such as Greyhounds, probably are more interested in chasing than they are in killing a cat, but accidents do happen. Many sporting dogs, such as retrievers and spaniels, on the other hand, just don't see it as their job to pester the cat.
While some dogs can never be trusted around cats -- their instincts and prey drive are just too strong --others can be socialized from a young age to at least tolerate cats and trained to leave them alone. If you have a cat and are thinking of adopting an adult dog from a shelter or rescue group, be sure to choose one who shows no signs of prey drive toward smaller animals.
Many animal shelters and rescue groups have a "test cat" who is relaxed enough to accept the short-term annoyance of being introduced to dogs, in the interest of gauging the canine's level of interest in cats.
Q. Why are some dogs terrified of thunderstorms?