Uh-Oh, I Was Caught Hitting My Dog!

I admit it. My friend yelled out “Lisa, why are you hitting your dog?”… during a game of tug with Gina. I wasn’t punishing my beloved dog; I was rewarding her and building her drive.

Tugging is not a game of war. It is a game of play and is a way to bond with your dog. It’s commonly used to increase drive and focus before agility runs. Tugging is also a great training tool during high distraction environments, an opportunity to reinforce “that’s enough” (meaning “game over, release the toy”), and it’s helped Gina tremendously with dog distraction. Tugging has been a way of teaching her that the best things in life happen in reinforcement zone with me, not with the stranger dog running by. Slapping her on the side while tugging is something she absolutely loves. It’s s a form of play, similar to the body slamming that dogs do with each other when running and playing.

Tugging with Gina at Jump 'n Java Agility

Slapping Gina's side while tugging at home


I am a huge believer in science based positive reinforcement dog training. I don’t support dominance based dog training, and hitting as a means of punishment is never appropriate. It never works, unless you want your dog to be fearful of your hand, newspaper, or whatever you are hitting them with.

In case you ever see me slapping Gina, you’ll see how much fun she is having and how a slap on her side just increases her focus on the tug toy. Time to get out the tug toy and go play…

Delivering Calm, Four Paws at a Time!

Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from the Calm your Canine Companion music series when you sign up for the Through a Dog’s Ear newsletter and/or Lisa’s Blog. Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Anteater Ants
Anteater Antsabout a year ago

Fortunately, you didn't hit your anteater!

Marilyn M.
Marilyn M.about a year ago

Thank you.

Franck R.
Franck R.about a year ago


Lisa Zarafonetis
Lisa Zarafonetisabout a year ago

Cool. Thanks.

Diane L.
Diane L.about a year ago

Yes, Jennifer, well said. Not all dogs like doing "silly tricks", even the ones that just require "sitting", "down" and "stay", much less "speak", sit up" or "fetch". My former dog would chase anything that moved, but it wasn't exactly "fetching" as she would get the object, just wouldn't bring it back! See, the thing is, a GSD's favorite game is "KEEP AWAY" and that's what her game was. She couldn't sit UP if her life had depended on it............far too "chest heavy", same as the Dobies I once had. Now, BC's love to herd and it's a "game" to them, but my Golden doesn't pay the slightest bit of attention to livestock, chickens, ducks or anything else living, except once in awhile, if the cat he's trying to play with runs, then he thinks THAT's just part of the play, and does "chase", which is immediately met with a stern "No!". He is too young and too BIG to understand it's not playing when he runs after a 7-lb. cat.

I once was pretty critical in a discussion about a dog that liked to ride a big "tricycle" and thought it was exploitation and borderline abusive, but apparently the dog truly does enjoy it. I think that's the key...........whether or not the dogs enjoy the "tricks".

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H.about a year ago

Stupid tricks?...bummer. Tricks are a way of keeping a dogs mind busy, alert and learning instead of bored and stagnant. In return for these stupid tricks they get rewarded with toys, play or treats. These stupid tricks are a great way for a person to spend quality time with their dog and visa versa. I can see it if a dog is just not into training or hates tricks, fine, don't force it on them. However, most dogs love the interaction and would do anything to get a treat, hug, tug or a pat on the side. Also, these stupid tricks which are so enjoyed by both dogs and humans serve well as entertainment for residents at care facilities that allow dog therapy visits. The residents love them and the dogs have a blast showing off. So I do beg to differ - these stupid or silly pet tricks serve quite a pupose for both humans and dogs.

Diane L.
Diane L.about a year ago

Oh, and Colleen? I know you'd think "doggy dancing" is "silly", but many truly enjoy it, and if I was a bit more "mobile" myself, I would seriously consider it. My dog is only 10-1/2 months old, but when I hear music and sort of "dance around to it, he jumps up and puts his front feet on my shoulders and he moves "with" me. Nobody asks him to do that and he's not trying to be aggressive or disobedient by "jumping" on his human. He obviously thinks he's "dancing" and he seems to have a sense of rhythm.

Maybe YOU should "relax" and learn to have fun with your dog instead of trying to just make him/her your equal.

Diane L.
Diane L.about a year ago

Colleen, I am far from NOT relaxed. Why is it that when you (meaning A/R extremists in general) are disagreed with, you accuse us of not being "relaxed" or tell us to "chill out", and to go take valium or prozac? Yes, I've had those responses when I have disagreed with those who believe in animal "rights" vs. animal "welfare".

I don't think I misunderstood you at all. I don't think that what Lisa is demonstrating are "stupid tricks" and you have clearly said that you are not a believer in teaching dogs "tricks". Teach a dog "sit, stay, down" are just basic obedience. Yes, many of us go a bit farther than that with "speak, roll over" and more and many dogs truly enjoy "performing" for their humans. Mine does. My previous Golden not only loved all his "silly tricks" but would do them all "in order" thinking that would get him 6 treats instead of just one. He loved showing up my adopted GSD who wasn't as smart as he was. I'd work with her off leash and he'd be right next to her, demonstrating HOW to do everything. Nobody told him to do a thing. He just enjoyed being the center of attention.

Lin M
Lin Mabout a year ago


Colleen Mollentze
Colleen Mollentzeabout a year ago

Sorry Diane, to continue - I also didn't enjoy your allusion to animal rights "extremists" especially considering that you have clearly misunderstood my point, and also don't seem to understand animal rights. Animal rights is not about *equal* rights - equal rights includes the vote and being able to sign contracts. This is clearly meaningless to an animal. AR folks merely want animals to be treated as rights holders - beings with intrinsic rights - to life, to bodily integrity etc. Children's rights may provide a useful analogy. Children are taught certain rules (e.g. don't hit) and are excluded from certain rights (e.g. getting a driver's licence) yet are considered to have certain inalienable rights such as life, safety, food, education etc. I hope that clears up any confusion about my position as well as the AR/AL position.