Is playing tug with your dog a good idea? Absolutely – although some myths say it may make your pet dominant/aggressive, or ‘gundog hard mouthed’ (when game is damaged by a hard bite).
Tug is great fun and some dogs prefer to work for a toy rather than food. If you watch two compatible dogs playing tug, the game is evenly balanced as one pulls then the other, one may win the toy and then entice the other back into the game. It is a game between friends, not about winners and losers.
Playing tug is great for teaching impulse-control – but it needs rules. The tug is your special toy, reserved for play. It should not be left with your dog since it loses its value and your dog may de-glove it! When initiating the tug game, only reinforce (strengthen) the behaviour you want. With no instructions, wait for your dog to offer a calm behaviour of his choice before you release your dog to play. This builds self-control because your dog only gets what he wants when he demonstrates restraint. He may jump for the tug when released to play – that’s part of the fun – but jumping up does not initiate the game. Paws must be on the floor for the game to continue!
Teach your dog to release the tug. Gently hold his collar under the chin to avoid him backing away, while holding the tug motionless. The tug must be ‘dead’ before your dog will release it; pulling will only increase his grip. Be patient, especially with determined terriers! You will see his eyes soften first, his body and jaws relax and his grip release. Calmly take the tug. Even if your dog has your best pair of shoes, your shoe must be ‘dead’ for your dog to release it.
Find a suitable tug. Local Exmouth company Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear make a fabulous range of robust tugs to suit all breeds, from reluctant to passionate tuggers. Strong bungee handles help prevent injury and jarring of the dog’s neck and your shoulders/wrists. Large bite areas allow your dog to get a good grip on the tug, keeping your fingers well out of the way!
Photographs courtesy of Debbie Fuller Photography.
Tugs supplied by Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear, Exmouth. www.tug-e-nuff.co.uk