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  • Emma Johnston

Should you play tug of war???

Updated: Nov 26, 2019


Contrary to what some may say, tug is a great game to play with most dogs - as long as you and your canine pal play by the rules.


The game should be equal on both sides, sometimes you win, sometimes your dog wins.


The benefits are:

Tug-of-war is a fun way for you to bond with your dog, played properly, it teaches your dog impulse control.

Dogs aren’t born knowing what you mean by ‘drop’ or ‘give’, this has to be taught using kind force free methods see (attach hyper link) for how to teach your dog this. Despite how much they want to keep tugging, you will be asking them to control their urge and to release the toy and wait whilst you present it again


When dogs mouth at you, tug-of-war can be used for redirection. This can help show your dog that it's appropriate to chew on the toy but not on your arm.


It can be a way of releasing pent up energy and decreases the chances of boredom or stress-related negative behaviours by leaving your dog happy and exhausted

It allows for ‘rough housing’ play that has ground rules and means you are not using your hand or arms to engage in that type of activity


Dogs can love tug-of-war so much that it can be used as positive reinforcement during training sessions.


Basic Tug Rules#


Your dog can’t grab or snatch the tug toy until you to invite them to play.


You can invite your dog to take the toy by using a special word or phrase, like “Take it!” or “Get it!” to initiate a game of tug.


If your dog tries snatching the toy lift it up out the way quickly, wait for them to sit back down and then present it again and give the cue “get it” the minute you present the toy to begin with and slowly ask them to wait a second longer before giving the "take it" cue.


Your dog should let go of the toy whenever you ask them to do so. Teach your dog that when you say “Drop it” or “Give,” they should release the tug toy.


We will explain how below.


IMPORTANT.....Your dog can’t put their mouth on human skin or clothing while playing tug—even if done so accidentally. “Missing” and grabbing anything except the tug toy should immediately result in the end of the game.


Teach Your Dog to Drop the Tug on Cue


You should NOT shout or intimidate your dog in order to get them to release the tug toy.


Just speak in a calm voice.

Different training approaches work for different dogs, so consider the following methods and see which you like best:


Before you start a game of tug with your dog, hide a few super high value treats in your back pocket.

During play, when you want your dog to release the toy, say “Give” or “Drop it,” and instantly stop tugging. Let your arm go limp, but keep holding the toy with one hand. Then, with your other hand, take out one of the hidden treats and put it right in front of your dog’s nose so that she can’t help but smell it.


Most dogs will instantly release the toy to eat the treat. When your dog lets go of the toy, say “Yes!” and give her the treat.


Pause for a minute then say “Get it!” and invite them to play tug again.


If you repeat this sequence many times, your dog will eventually learn to release the tug toy as soon as they hear you say “Give” or “Drop it,” and you won’t have to use the treat in front of their nose.


Continue to reward your dog with treats when they release the toy until they consistently drops it as soon as you ask her to do so. When you think your dog has learned the release behaviour very well, you can start rewarding your dog by inviting them to play tug again instead of offering a treat the reward is to start playing again.


For dogs not motivated by treats another way to teach your dog to release is to hold the toy either side of the dog’s mouth and just hold it still.


The toy becomes static and actually starts to act like a horses bit and the puppy will want it out of their mouths once they back off the toy give your “cue” word wait and moment and then give them they invite “cue” to play again.


The benefits far outweigh the outdated myth that it causes aggression, just make sure you have ground rules and manners to this great game.




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