"TUG" Teach It - Play It
"TUG" Teach It - Play It
by Kathy Santo | Updated: Feb 6 2019
10 GOOD REASONS TO PLAY TUG!
1. This is how your dog will learn “Drop It” or “Out.”
He’ll learn that stopping when you ask him will result in him getting another game of tug.
2. Dogs “Not Into” Food, Or Those On Special Diets, Or With Sensitive Tummies can still have a great reward.
I have many students whose dogs can’t –for whatever reason – use food as a reward. The tug game is perfect for them.
3. It helps with body handling.
When your dog is focused on the tugging, you can touch his shoulders, face, flanks, feet – anywhere. It really decreases the anxiety some dogs feel about being touched, which is important when you go to the vet or your dog is at the groomer
4. It teaches your dog to go from Cranked to Calm.
Which is a skill you need every day, all day! Have you ever seen people trying to get a super excited dog to “SIT SIT SIT SIT!!” when company walks in the house, and fail? That’s because their dog never learned this concept!
5. Your dog learns that you control the game.
An important leadership concept.
6. “Squirrel? What Squirrel?”
This is one of the reasons that tug is a foundational game in my puppy toolbox. We literally start playing it the day a puppy walks into my house, in order to create more focus for me and not everything going on around us. Here’s why: when a dog is bored, and not ‘on a task‘, he tends to notice more things in the environment. Certain types of dogs – those that are more ‘emotional’ – can focus on those things and become (more) fearful or nervous. But a dog who’s tugging is in a focused state of play, and he doesn’t tend to notice these things as much. With this skill, I can keep him focused on me/our game, and NOT on things that will upset him. Eventually, though, all the exposure he’s had while he’s been in a state of play will create a positive or neutral (and not fearful) response to things in his environment!
7. With this game, a dog learns to control their teeth and jaw pressure
If they accidentally grab your hand, the game ends.
8. This teaches your dog LOTS of self-control.
They quickly learn to tug only when invited.
9. Even if your dog LOVES food…..you can use it as a reward during training!
A good alternative to a COOKIE.
10. It builds a fun working relationship with the dog.
A treat can be eaten in 2 seconds, but a game of tug requires you to participate, so you become the reward!
BEHAVIORS THAT ARE HELPED BY TUG:
- Jumping (greetings) and biting
- “Sit,” “Down” and “Stay” (in exciting situations: guests, parks, events)
- Biting or Mouthy Pup
- Any behavior that is caused by lack of impulse control …
TUGGING Q & A:
“I’ve seen two dogs playing tug & having a great time, but will playing games of tug cause aggression?”
NO. Properly taught and managed, “Tug” will NOT teach your dog to be aggressive.
“Can people play tug with dogs too?”
YES. People CAN & SHOULD play tug with their dogs.
HOW TO TEACH TUGGING:
- Select a sturdy tug toy that your dog will enjoy. ‘Audition’ the toy before playing the game, and DO NOT allow your dog to have access to the dog during the day. It’s only to be used for tugging/training, and if the dog has access to it all the time, it won’t be special. Also, if your dog doesn’t find a toy he likes, don’t be afraid to use a ‘non-toy’ tug. When my puppy, Never, was 10 weeks old, I used a knotted sock because the toys were too big for her wee mouth!
- Stand or sit on the floor, show your dog the toy, and then hide it behind your back. Get your dog excited. I say things like “Readyyyyy…are you readddddddyyy?”
- Present the toy to your dog and say “Get It”!
- If your dog grabs the toy, GENTLY pull on it. Your goal is not to pop the tug out of his mouth; your goal is to have him enjoy the game. If he shows no interest, you can drag it ‘snake-like’ on the floor, throw it in the air and catch it, etc.
5. TUG for a few seconds (less time when first learning) with your dog. Eventually, you can gently pat his body to work on body handling, but if your dog is a tentative tugger, hold off on that.
Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.
In Ramsey, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.