Tug of War with Dogs
Their are many myths surrounding the game of Tug of War as it relates to your dog.
Promotes Dominant Behavior.
Encourages Dogs to Bite things other than their tug toy.
Teaches dogs to bite - they can then turn and bite you.
If you play, you cannot allow the dog to "win".
|"Please play with me mommy!" ~Dante|
Many trainers have changed their minds about tug over the years, and their is much evidence to the contrary that tug is a "dangerous" game.
Tug is great exercise for your pup: SlimDoggy.com wrote a great article about tug - you can use tug to help strengthen a dog's back legs (something important as your dog ages to reduce the risk of atrophy). It also burns their energy quickly and helps to tire your dog out.
|Great way to tire out your pup!|
Safe way to roughhouse with your dog: This is a great indoor or garage activity for those rainy days when exercise outdoors isn't as appealing.
Strengthens dog - human bonds: Dogs (most dogs) love to tug, anytime you can do something with your dog in a positive manner you are strengthening your relationship. Dante loves to tug, lives practically to tug, and will with bounce in his step go retrieve his tug and proceed to "beg". Placing it in every near lap until someone plays with him.
Tug helps to Train/Reinforce Commands and teach Self-Control: Basic rules of tug must be established if you are going to play with your pup. He may only grab the toy when you give him permission, and he must let go when you ask otherwise the toy goes away (this is negative reinforcement for undesirable behavior). With consistency your dog will learn that in order to play he must follow the rules.
Redirects inappropriate mouthing: Great tool to use when teaching puppies what they may/may not grab with their mouths. Tug teaches appropriate use of their mouth, they do not get to "mouth" anything else.
Tug Builds Dog Confidence: You can help a timid dog to gain confidence through playing tug.
Basic Rules of Tug:
You should always be in control of the game. Only play if you can get your dog to sit and release the toy on command.
|"Sit" and "Wait" his reward is the tug toy.|
Teaching your dog to play tug:
When you are done tugging change your body language, stop tugging, stand up straight, and just stop. We then use the words, "let go" or "release". Other common words, "mine" and "thank you". With your free hand you can then present a treat, when your dog releases the toy give him the treat and make a big fuss! "Good boy!!" Have him sit, and when you are ready initiate play again, we use the word, "ok" as our release command.
Keep rewarding your dog for playing right and releasing on command.
If your dog accidentally puts his teeth on you the game is over for a few minutes.
This happened in the beginning when we were first playing with Dante. He'd do it on accident, as he would re-grip his mouth on the tug toy he'd end up gradually getting higher up. A good way to get your point across is to say, "ouch!" followed by the game abruptly ending and putting your pup in a short timeout. We'd reset the game with Dante; "OUCH!" followed by having him lay down for 20-30 seconds. Then re-establishing the rules: Give the tug toy, ask him to release the toy, give him the toy, ask him to release, reward his good job of following directions and then begin playing again.
Sometimes your dog might lunge for the toy before you are ready to play.
If you wish you may say, "Oops!", "No", or something similar to stop their forward movement.
This then results in starting over - we like to do a "sit", "stay", taking our precious time, and then releasing Dante with, "ok!" when we are ready.
If your dog is not following the rules consistently then end the game prematurely and try again later - don't worry though! He'll get the hang of it!
Play growling is ok!
We actually growl back at Dante sometimes, I feel silly but it's kind of fun!
But watch their body language, some dogs who have an aggressive background can become to serious when playing tug for too long of periods. Our previous foster pup Tex-Anna was like this. If you played for too long she would become possessive over the toy - which would immediately result in the game ending. She actually bit Dante a couple times because it went on for too long and she wouldn't quit and let him win.
Watch their body language, all the signals are their before a bite!
Unblinking eyes - strong eye contact
Are not acceptable behaviors and the game should be stopped immediately. If you are concerned about a bite then drop the toy and walk away.
The Concept of Winning
A well-balance dog just wants to play, its us humans that think of the game in regards to "winning" and "losing". Your dog just wants your attention and for the game to keep going.
An unbalance dog will become possessive over the toy (like I mentioned above)...this is less about winning and more about the toy is "mine" and you cannot have it.
|A Tired dog is a Happy Dog|
Tug is great for setting boundaries and practicing keeping control over an excited dog. Dante gets very into playing tug, it's his favorite game! But he knows the rules. The game ends if he doesn't listen to a command. We've used tug to teach him that other people can give him directions too, in our case we have borrowed many a neighbor child (always under our supervision!) and taught the kids the rules of the game, while enforcing the rules with Dante.
|We play with older kids who understand the rules.|
**I should mention, this is not a game for small children! Dogs are big and strong and can easily harm a child on accident by knocking them down, kids also need to know the rules in order for you to maintain consistency with your dog. And always, ALWAYS supervise child-dog play time.**
DIY Doggy Tug Toy
You will need material and scissors.
Step 1. Material, you can use an old towel, fleece, or other fabric for this toy.
Step 2. Cut three 2 inch wide strips length wise.
Step 3. Tie a knot in one end.
Step 4. Braid the three strips together, and knot at the remaining end. Give yourself about 4 inches of un-braided end in order to make and tie your last knot.
|Ta Da! Only took about 10 minutes to make!|
Step 5. Test it out! I will be testing mine out when I get home this afternoon - I'll post pictures later!
I wish mine was a bit longer so either I'll use a full sized towel next time or fabric.
Wider strips will make for a thicker rope braid.
Have Fun and Happy Fit Dog Friday!
Other Sources of Reading about the benefits of Tug:
ASPCA - Dog Behaviorist