Tug or Not to Tug? That’s a Good Question!

Image                                  Picture of Boy, my bloodhound mix when he was a pup!

THE GAME OF TUG WITH DOGS

It is an absolute myth that playing tug with dogs creates aggression. I partner with an animal behaviorist who has a PhD and is a certified Animal Behaviorist. She was sharing with me a study which shows that dogs that play tug with a rule structure are less aggressive than dogs that don’t play tug at all. In fact, playing tug with a rule structure will help create impulse control and be a great reinforcer.

RULES TO FOLLOW WHEN PLAYING TUG
1. You always begin the play and end the play.
2. Teach your dog an “off” and “take it” cue. This will allow clear communication to your dog of when he can start and when he needs to stop.
3. Be sure to take many breaks when playing tug to ensure that your dog doesn’t get overly excited. It takes observation on the part of the pet owner to know how far to go with their own dog, as every dog is different. If your dog becomes nippy, or increases barking or jumping these are all indicators that your dog is what trainers call aroused. If this happens, stop playing tug and do something to help your dog bring himself back down.  Some examples include an easy walk, giving him something to chew, or cue a down and talk to him in a slow, lower toned voice. Next time you go into a tug session, (I would wait at least a few hours if your dog got overly excited), make the time a bit shorter. Let’s say he was fine for two games, and it was on the third game you noticed this overly excited reaction; the next time you play with him, only work with him 1 session and end it. You can gradually work up the time you work with him.

HOW TO TEACH OFF/TAKE IT
1. Get your dog engaged with a tug toy. When he places his mouth on the toy, say “take it.”
2. When he’s really into the game, hold the tug toy directly against your side, no longer tugging (even if your dog continues). Wait until your dog’s mouth comes off of the tug toy and say “off.”
3. You can immediately start another game of tug by telling him to “take it” and this can serve as his reward for letting go of the tug.

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BLOG WRITTEN BY MICHELLE HUNTTING
BUILDING THE BRIDGE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DOG AND PET GUARDIAN.
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