Activities For Tosas

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Introduction

The Tosa, also known as the Toba Ibu or the Japanese Mastiff, is a massive dog developed as a fighting dog and pulling dog in Japan. While these dogs tend to be calm and affectionate towards their family, they tend to be very aggressive towards other dogs and have a high prey drive, as well as a high level of reactivity. These are difficult traits for the pet parent of a dog that is known for their ability to pull well over a thousand pounds. This is not the dog for an inexperienced dog owner and they do not do well in group settings, but they are athletic dogs who still need a great deal of exercise and activity to stay healthy and happy.

Canine Massage

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Any Day
Free
Normal
15 - 45 min
Items needed
Towel or Blanket
Activity description

Tosa breed dogs, like many other large or giant dogs, have a somewhat shortened lifespan compared to smaller dogs, typically around ten to twelve years. In the case of the Tosa, this is often due to either cancer or diseases that attack the joints and the skeletal system such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and severe arthritis. Canine massage can ease the stiffness and pain that are associated with these disorders, and in some cases, it may help to prevent them or slow their progress by improving circulation and muscle tone. As an added benefit, massaging your canine companion also helps to improve the communication and bond between the two of you. 

Step
1
Comfort levels
This is an activity that is best done in a fairly quiet environment that is comfortable to your dog so they can relax. It should also be an environment that is comfortable for you as dogs are quite adept at discerning when their human companions are stressed. Some dogs may even find soft music, dimmed lights, or even light aromatherapy soothing as they get their massage.
Step
2
Start slowly
If this is a new experience for your dog, it should be introduced slowly and calmly in order to encourage your dog to relax and enjoy it. Start by slowly and lightly rubbing the ears, which will typically cause your dog to relax a bit as evidenced by shutting their eyes, sighing, or even lying down. If your dog pulls away or changes to a less relaxed posture during the massage, it is an indication that you are moving too fast or massaging harder than your canine is comfortable with. If this occurs, returning your focus to the dog’s ears often restores their comfort level.
Step
3
Light pressure
With your hand flat and fingers close together, use light pressure to stroke your dog, enough to move the skin, but leaving the muscles stationary. Do not use deep tissue massage unless you have received specific instructions on how to do this as it can cause pain. Move your hands over both sides of the neck, then along the shoulders, the front legs, the chest, the back (avoiding the spine), the flanks, and the rear legs. If your dog is comfortable with it, you can also use your thumbs to massage their paws and wrists.
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Socialization

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Any Day
Free
Normal
1 - 2 hrs
Items needed
High Value Treats
Activity description

This breed was developed specifically as a fighting dog in Japan, and while they were generally bred to be non-aggressive towards humans, they can be wary of strangers and have been known to be territorial. A Tosa breed dog that believes that they are protecting their home or their family is quite fearless and may be difficult to call off, and if they remain unsocialized, they may even view guests as a threat, making them a hazard to anyone who comes to visit. It is the responsibility of the dog’s owners to ensure that they get plenty of socialization so that they are comfortable with the idea of guests coming to visit and that they remain calm and well-mannered during social calls. 

Step
1
Basic socialization
Basic socialization is most easily achieved during the canine’s early formative weeks, typically between three and sixteen weeks of age for a large dog like the Tosa, but can be managed with more mature dogs as well provided that patience, persistence, and care are used in training. If you are uncertain about what type of behavior your dog will initially exhibit particularly when dealing with nearly grown or adult dogs, take precautions to ensure that they can easily be restrained if need be. These dogs don’t tend to bark when attacking, so knowing your canine companion’s body language is crucial for this exercise.
Step
2
Positive association
When socializing your dog, you are aiming to create a positive association for your dog, so that they see guests visiting as a positive experience rather than a threat. When you have guests come to visit during this socialization period, greet them off the property or outside and give them a high-value reward to offer to your pup, with instructions to offer it only if the dog is calm and not showing any aggressive posturing or behaviors. If your dog has already exhibited any aggressive behavior towards humans, a crate or wire basket muzzle can be used for safety, while still allowing guests to offer the dog a reward for good behavior, thereby building good positive associations.
Step
3
Counterconditioning
Counterconditioning is a slightly more advanced training technique than basic socialization that consists of teaching a bullet-proof specific command that is meant to interrupt their aggressive behavior, such as target training or lie down. Pet parents of a Tosa should make an effort to become aware of their dog’s body language. This awareness can be used to short-circuit aggressive behavior by utilizing counterconditioning to stop the dog’s fear or aggression before it really gets started.
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Swimming

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
30 - 60 min
Items needed
Canine Life Vest
Activity description

Large and giant-sized canines like Tosa Inu breed dogs tend to be more likely than their smaller counterparts to develop debilitating joint issues such as severe arthritis and hip dysplasia. The physical activity that is involved with swimming improves cardiovascular health without adding as much stress to the joints due to the support of the water as well as strengthening the muscles, including the muscles that surround and support the joints, which helps to slow or even prevent damage to the skeletal system. This activity is particularly helpful not only as the dog ages but also when they are young as it can help to support the proper formation of the skeletal growth plates. 

Step
1
Find a place
Canine swimming pools, both indoors and outside have become more common in the last decade or so, usually allowing your dog to swim for anywhere from half an hour to an hour for around ten to twenty dollars per swim. These facilities provide a safe environment for swimming and typically have trained personnel that helps introduce your dog to the water. The swimming sessions also tend to be private, so your dog will not be surprised by another canine swimmer. While swimming outdoors in natural bodies of water costs a little less than swimming at a canine swimming pool, there are some hazards that you will need to be aware of, including other dogs, algae blooms, bacterial and viral infections, or even diseased or dangerous wildlife.
Step
2
Introduce your dog to water
Many canine swimming pools have trained individuals available to ensure you’re your dog’s first experience with water is a positive one. Dogs should never be forced or frightened into the water, as this can cause a fear of water to develop. It is more effective to gently coax the animal into the water, and in most cases, the individual introducing the dog to the water will do so while in the water themselves. Dogs that are unproven or weaker swimmers need to wear a properly fitted canine life vest before attempting to swim, especially when swimming in nature where there is less control of the situation.
Step
3
Splash and play safe
It usually doesn’t take very long for your canine to get used to the feel of the water supporting their bodies and they tend to figure out how to navigate rather rapidly. Dogs that enjoy a good game of fetch typically enjoy moving the game to the water, but many dogs find that the activity of swimming is enough of an incentive to keep exercising. Be sure to rinse your dog off after each swimming session to remove dirt and debris in the case of outdoor swimming and chemicals or salt in the case of a canine swimming pool, in order to avoid itchy or damaged skin.
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More Fun Ideas...

Weight Pulling

This is a controversial activity in the dog world, and in some instances, it can lead to muscle strain and joint damage, but it is an activity that the Tosa is uniquely well-designed for. If you choose to participate in weight pulling activities with your dog, be certain that you follow all of the safety guidelines, that you start out slowly, and that you don't push your dog into anything they aren't comfortable with.

Early Socialization

Tosa Inu breed dogs tend to be very aware of their surroundings and can react poorly to unexpected experiences. If you are getting a Tosa puppy, make it a point to help them to have as many positive experiences as possible, particularly during the socialization window, which can start as early as three weeks and continues until around the fourth or fifth month.

Conclusion

These massive, muscular canines are not to be taken lightly, but they are as deserving of love and a good life as any other dog. If you have chosen to take responsibility for a Tosa dog it is crucial that they are given an appropriate outlet for their energy and a lot of positive and loving discipline and guidance.