Love That Tug
Tugging and chasing are great ways to build really fast recalls and reliable obedience around distractions. In fact, for some dogs, tugging is the only way you can be more exciting than other animals, like squirrels to chase and other dogs to play with.
Tugging is a great way to teach puppy the difference between stuff it is okay to bite (like tug toys) and stuff it is not okay to bite (like skin and scarves and ankles).
Key points to help pup Love That Tug
- Move tug AWAY from puppy, make it hard enough to catch that it is exciting – easy enough to catch that he can do it if he tries moderately hard.
- Always think about mimicking prey animals when playing tug with a puppy or dog. When they are young, you are a mouse – or a squirrel – or at MOST a rabbit. Prey animals try to get away (there are no suicide rabbits!). Prey animals dart and hop around. Prey animals are close to the ground (don’t be a bird!) Prey animals twitch and flinch erratically when caught.
- If puppy catches the toy, tug lightly and in little twitches and flinches, then let him win. Let puppy feel strong in the game. You should almost match puppy’s strength so that he feels you are strong but beatable. Be careful with teething puppies.
If puppy is biting your skin, first check how you are presenting the tug. Make sure that he has a clear and easy target to the tug and that you are not putting your hands in the way. If you are certain that you are giving the pup a proper target and he is still biting your skin or clothes, you can lightly say “ouch” and calmly put the toy away for a few seconds. Make sure puppy calms down and is polite before taking the toy back out and reengaging in play.
We don’t need no stinkin’ rules!
If puppy is not very enthusiastic about playing tug, he does not need any rules. Let him try to steal the tug from you, do lots of wild chasing, praise him cheerfully when he chases or grabs, and make sure you end the game and put the toy away before he loses interest.
Make sure you are having fun with the game, and remember the predatory play tips from above. The first step is to have puppy love that tug. As soon as he starts to have genuine and reliable interest in the toy and in chasing and biting, you can start to add rules.
The rules of tug of war
If puppy is enthusiastic about playing tug, he absolutely needs rules. Tug should be safe and fun for all participants.
“GET IT” (or your chosen cue) starts the tugging. Mouth on tug without permission gets no tugging
TEETH ON SKIN OR CLOTHES gets no tugging
“OUT” (or your chosen cue) means LET GO (freeze, wait for dog to back off, re-cue tug as a reward for out, re-engage)
TAKE THE TUG at the end (always reward the last out with a tasty treat)
***no tugging, for some dogs, means a pause in the game where you freeze for a couple of seconds until puppy shows more polite behavior. For other dogs no tugging may need to mean putting the toy all the way away in a pocket or on a shelf for a few seconds until puppy shows more polite behavior.