Playing Tug with Your Dog – January 15, 2011

Playing with your dog with toys enhances your relationship. People hear different pro’s and con’s about playing tug. If your dog is easily excitable and gets too mouthy too quickly, tug may not be advisable. But for most dogs, playing tug is a great way to play and train at the same time. Playing Tug is less about the tugging and more about teaching Sit, Wait, Take It and Drop It before and after a few seconds of tugging.

Here are the rules of the game:

1. Never leave the ‘tug of war’ toy lying around. Keep it put away so you initiate and end play
2. Make sure that the game only starts when you invite your dog to play by saying ‘take it’ and letting the dog grab one end of the toy
3. Teach your dog to drop the toy by saying ‘drop it’ while playing tug of war. Trade with a treat to start
4. Once your dog is hooked on the tug of war game, you can institute the 3 ‘fouls’. The 3 fouls occur when your dog:
• Tries to take the toy before you say ‘take it’
• Any mouthing of your skin, clothing or hair in the dog’s excitement to get the toy
• Not dropping the toy when asked
The foul is a brief 30 second to 2 minute ‘time out’ meaning your stop playing the game by saying ‘too bad’, and put the toy out of reach and ignore the dog
5. Always end up with possession of the toy
6. Start throwing in obedience exercise before inviting the dog to ‘take it’ or after ‘drop it’ – Commands you may practice include:
• Sit
• Down
• Stand
• Wait-you can toss the toy and have the dog wait until you give the release “OK” for them to go get it. This is also a good way to start the ‘fetch’ command, as most likely your dog will bring it back to you to continue the game.

Always have the session end when the dog still wants to play – initially just play for a couple of minutes.

Also, only keep a few of your dog’s other toys out for play and rotate in different toys each week.

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