Bad for Dogs?
Is tug-of-war bad for dogs?How often have you heard that that it will make your dog aggressive or show “dominant” behaviors? That’s a common misconception among pet dog owners, some dog trainers, and some breeders. In fact, there is no eveidence to show that this myth is true. Research has been done that shows the opposite!playing tug
Can Only Big Dogs Play Tug-of-War?
Dogs of all sizes can play tug! My 10lb Miniature Schnauzer Sadie loves her daily game of tug and is quite ferocious! My late 20lb Mini Schnauzer Max, pictured right, had to learn how to tug. As you can see, he really got into it and began to love it, which taught him many valuable skills!
Benefits of Tugging with your Dog
Max was a rescue, and we took training classes together and built a good relationship through that. He also loved that game that all dogs love… KEEP AWAY!
As we started agility training, it became obvious that we needed to utilize tugging; however, he didn’t seem interested or know how!
The process of learning how to tug helped us:
1. Build a stronger connection
2. Work on impulse control
3. Build confidence
4. Gain an indoor exercise game – mentally & physically tiring
Tug-of-War to Build a Stronger Connection
Playing tug-of-war is a dog and owner interactive game not just for sports dogs! That alone is going to help you build a stronger connection.
Most dogs play keep away, and then the owner chases and nags the dog to return the toy. We want to change that dynamic and teach the dog that PLAYING WITH YOU and the toy is WAY MORE FUN! This will help the dog choose to bring the toy to you to play together!
When teaching to play tug, start in a small enclosed area so the dog can’t run away with the toy and play keep away!
Tug Rules & Impulse Control
You set the rules for tug-of-war and that requires impulse control!
You are in control of the game! You get to decide when it starts and when it ends.
The dog shouldn’t jump for it when you hold it up or in front of them unless you say it’s ok. If they do, put it bunched up under your armpit so they can’t get at it and try again. They will learn that just grabbing it without thinking or paying attention to you does not get them the toy!
The tug toy should only be out and available when you initiate a game of tug! Otherwise, it is hidden safely away!
Dogs hide pain very well! We don’t know if our dog has neck issues, and we don’t want to start any. So it is important to use natural body movements.
Pulling the toy up and down causes the neck vertebrae to move unnaturally. So instead, use a side-to-side motion and let them do the work – PULL!!!
Make sure you help them keep their feet on the ground.
My dogs like it when I gently slap or rub their sides to get them tugging. Figure out how your dog likes you to interact with them while playing!
If your dog is having trouble tugging, consider if the problem could be a lack of traction under their feet. A small area rug will usually do the trick.
Tug for 10-15 seconds and let the dog win! Then act like a fool and get so excited that the dog stays near you for you to grab the toy (let your dog keep it in their mouth if they wish) and tug again!
As the dog naturally releases the toy, say Drop or Give, whichever you prefer, and then cheer, get excited, and start the game again! Over time your dog will learn that Drop/Give means to release the toy, and you will be able to ask for it. If your dog needs a little help letting go naturally, hold the tug very still with your hand wrapped around the tug near the dog’s mouth so there is not much left for them to bite on. Then change your body posture and be very still and wait. As you see them start to open their mouth to let go, say Drop/Give, remove the toy, and get excited and start the game again.
You can try to reward the toy’s release with a treat, but most dogs are very food motivated and might not continue to play.
However, if you have a dog that has a hard time letting go, go ahead and try a trade for a treat and teach the drop/give away from the game of tug. It all depends on your dog’s personality.
Start tossing the toy a short distance away, so you can quickly and easily grab it IF they don’t bring it back to you! Over time they will learn that PLAYING WITH YOU is way more fun than playing without you.
The goal here is to encourage and teach your dog that playing with you is AWESOME!
The choice of tug is very important. You want something to set your dog up to successfully keep its mouth far from your hands! Long tugs with which to make a U-shape, longer tugs with suitable handles, and tugs with special points of interest away from the handle are all good ideas!
Your dog might be a “talker” when they play. They might be a silent player. Both are ok! In either case, watch for your dog getting “too” excited/aroused or aggressive during play.
Look for their energy changing, inability to play the game by the rules, lipstick showing, getting snatchy or sharky with biting of the tug.
The best practice to prevent dogs from getting into a state of hyperarousal is to alternate a single tug session with the performance of tricks or cues! Tug – sit – tug – bow – tug – spin – tug – down sit- tug etc. (interval training). End the game with a thinking exercise like a treat scatter where your dog has to sniff, sniff, sniff!
Confidence & Focus Through Tugging
Once you have made tug-of-war super fun for your dog at home, you can take it on the road!
If you are in a new area and your dog is feeling insecure and too stressed to eat, see if a game of tug will help distract them and help them relax.
You can gain your dog’s focus in new environments through tugging. So instead of going to new places and asking for obedience, have fun and play tug! You can do interval training as well.
You can use a skinny soft tug to redirect all that puppy biting!
This will help teach your dog what a good thing to bite and chew is and what is not.
I suggest you always have a tug on you and a few scattered around the puppy areas for your puppy to drive towards when they feel the urge to nibble on something!
It is something with which you have to be consistent and patient.
Fleece is great as it doesn’t shred like a lot of other fabrics!
Something skinny and soft is ideal for puppy teeth!
for more dog training tips!
© 2022 Waggin’ Tails Dog Training
Training with treats does have its preconceived notions. Thank you, Mod-Dog Training, for this perspective-giving story on using treats in training!
Some dog parents view animals, such as dogs, as their property and therefore expect them to do, as they say, the end – we shouldn’t have to pay them with treats. When you set yourself up like this, what happens when your dog doesn’t do as you say the second you ask? Do you let it go, or do you turn to force? Both are problematic.
Ideally, you do neither and set your dog up for success! Your dog is a blank slate, especially if you get one as a puppy! Reward what you like with treats, and your dog/puppy will offer you more of that! It’s like putting money in the bank! The more you put in, the stronger that behavior grows!
Getting the Dog Behavior You
Dog Training Mind Set
Try to put yourself in an offensive position when you are training your dog as much as possible instead of on the defensive! When you are in the defensive position yelling, glaring, or pushing the dog off of you- you are offering your dog attention via talking, touching, and eye contact. Whatever behavior they were doing to get your attention is AWESOME in their eyes, and they will do it again – depending, of course, on the dog’s disposition. To be on the offensive, teach your dog what you DO WANT him to do and how to offer it without you constantly having to ask for it! Otherwise, you will always have to tell him what not to do!
Ask yourself: “What do I want my dog to be able to do when he’s grown up/trained?”
If any of your sentences start with “I don’t want,” “Not to,” or anything similar, see if you can think of it in terms of what you DO WANT him to do!
Don’t wait until you are tired and frustrated to get help training your dog! Be proactive! Set yourself and your dog up for success!
How to Effectively Use Treats In Training
Find Your Moment Of
So you’ve identified what you DO WANT your dog to do and all of a sudden you catch your dog doing it (even if just for a split second… we’ve got start somewhere!) say a very quick and short “YES!” and throw a treat or deliver a treat to the mouth! You just put some $$$$$$ in the bank for that behavior. Now, the dog will likely have to figure out what it is that they did, but the more you find your moment of yes the more your dog will begin to offer you behaviors you want!
Don’t hold treats in your hand or in front of your dog to bribe them to do what you want. That’s you doing the work, make your dog do the thinking!
Check out how to leash train in this blog using treats the right way!
Giving Your Dog What He Needs – Beyond Training
This is a great article by Sarah Streaming on the 4 steps to behavioral health. It is insightful, and even if you don’t agree with everything there is still a wealth of knowledge and thought provoking information here!
Remember setting your dog up for success requires thought and caring on your part!
Subscribe for more Dog Training Tips and Insights!
© 2022 Waggin’ Tails Dog Training
Leash Training and Dog Walks
In order to master leash training you need to understand why you walk your dog in the first place. Is it for exercise for yourself, for them, or for both of you? Do you just want to tire them out? Obligation as a dog owner? Is it so you can spend time together and build a relationship? Do you want to let them explore the world outside of your home and yard? Then, check out this video on the dog’s nose!Often new dog parents take for granted that puppies are not born knowing that a collar and leash will be attached to them and how to walk without tugging! Likewise, older dogs may not know what you expect due to a lack of training and consistency.
How To Leash Train A Puppy
A dog’s innate response to pressure on them, like that from the leash, is to go in the opposite direction, known as opposition reflex. So if you pull on your dog to get him where you want, he will pull in the opposite direction. He will possibly learn that we get where we want to go by pulling on the leash to get there. That is how you end up with leash training frustration for both of you. The point is to set your dog up for success!
7 Step To Start Dog Leash Training
Puppy Walks vs Puppy Leash Training
Puppies do need special consideration for their growing joints. Sarah Stremming has a great article called Just Walk (pg 43) in the Growing Up FDSA e-Book that I highly recommend. There are other great articles in this e-book as well! They are geared towards sports dogs, but even pet dogs will benefit from the mindset and training!
For puppies, a decompression walk, as mentioned in Sara’s article, is best while lead training around the home for just a few minutes a couple of times a day will get them ready for longer walks when their body is ready. Some dogs will not do well when you immediately put on a long line, so you must first train the long line.
Leash Training Tips
For any dog, you will start leash training in a low distraction environment like inside your home. Low distraction means no kids running around, people coming in and out of the house, big commotion, etc. Once they are successful, you can add indoor distractions or go to a low-distraction outdoor location like the backyard when neighbors might be inside.
As your dog ages, the walk is ideally a mix of exercises and letting your dog explore the world, a decompression walk. Tension-free from both of you! Keep in mind if your dog is only exercising, they increase their stamina requiring more and more exercise to become “tired.”
Your mindset also has to be one that you are ok with following your dog so that he can explore, but also have limits and ways to move him along. For example, a “let’s go,” or a nose touch can aid in helping your dog move along from distractions if necessary. These are all things to be taught indoors first!
Harness for Leash Training
Collars are hard on the neck, a sensitive part of the dog’s body.
NO HARNESS CAN FIX WALKING ISSUES
Harnesses that promise to do so restrict range of motion, and when you take your dog for a walk, you want them to have full range of motion so that they can extend and move their body as intended. Y-shaped harnesses where the front sits at the chest bone is ideal! For dogs that get very stressed with a harness going over their head, I suggest one that clips around the neck and chest like the PetSafe 3-in-1.
Dog Harness Fitting Guides
Tips For Training Loose Leash Walking:
Leash Training VarietyChange things up by hopping in the car and driving 5 minutes to a different part of the neighborhood where you might not normally walk! There will be some new pee-mail to reply to and receive!
The Sophisticated Dog & Lili Chin have a great illustration of how to get started!
for more dog training tips!
© 2022 Waggin’ Tails Dog Training