Simple Ways to Teach Your Dog to Tug

If you own a highly driven dog, then teaching him to tug would be a bright idea. Not only does tugging provide exercise for your dog, but it also helps establish your position in your “pack.” All you need to get started is a toy that is long enough for you and your dog to hold.

Picking the Toy

At first, you may want to try out a few toys to see which ones your dog likes the most. Almost anything can be used for a tug toy: braided nylon toys, old socks, blankets or towels, frisbees, mittens, pillows, or stuffed animals. Some dogs get a little more creative and tug with more unusual items. No matter what type of toy your dog likes, the goal is to get him to tug.

Teaching the Tug to the High-Drive Dog

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Highly driven dogs will usually have no problem with learning to tug. In fact, they’re often just the opposite: they have trouble learning when to stop tugging. But “give” comes later. First, take your dog to a quiet area with your tug toy. Throw the toy onto the ground and see what your dog does. Does he immediately pounce on it? Does he just sniff it? Or does he ignore it completely? Most energetic dogs will pounce as soon as they see it, but it’s okay if your dog doesn’t grab it instantly. To start a game of tug, get the toy from your dog. Hold it in front of him and when he looks interested, say something like, “Okay, tug!” If he starts tugging, praise him and let him play for a several seconds. If he doesn’t immediately start tugging, then wave the toy around and taunt him. Taunting him should make your dog want to get the toy. Occasionally let your dog win, but don’t let him win all of the time. There should be a steady balance between each of your “wins” and “losses.”

Teaching the Tug to the Low-Drive Dog

Low-drive dogs often have issues with tugging. They just don’t find any excitement in pulling on some toy. You usually don’t want to teach them to stop tugging until they love the game so much that they won’t stop willingly. First, take your dog to a quiet, non-distracting environment with the toy. Taunt him a little and hype him up with your voice. Offer plenty of encouragement and never say anything with a negative tone. You want your dog to associate the toy with good things, not harsh words and frustration. If he doesn’t respond, then give him a little break and try again later. If he still doesn’t want to tug later on, then consider buying a tug-N-treat.

A tug-N-treat is a tug toy with a pouch enclosed by Velcro. The pouch may be used to hold treats, and when a dog tugs, you open it up and give him his reward. To teach your dog to tug with this toy, you first must shape the initial contact with the toy. Most dogs, in frustration for not being able to find the treats, eventually bite the toy. As soon as your dog bites the toy, open up the pouch and reward him. After repeating this several times, your dog will understand that he must grab the toy with his teeth before he gets treats. Once he understands this, then try tugging. As soon as he tugs, give him his jackpot. Start requiring more and more tugging before he gets his treats, and he’ll eventually be tugging like a champ.

Teaching “Give”

Never teach your dog to give until he is confidently tugging. Once he is confident, however, it is good to teach him to give you the toy. There are several ways to teach “give,” but the three main ways are: grab your dog’s upper muzzle and pull the toy out, tell him to sit or lie down and wait until he gives and goes into position, or offer a treat to get his attention away from the toy. Once he understands “give,” you’ll be able to use this command in tugging games.

Tugging is a great game for most dogs, but if your dog simply won’t tug, then you may want try something else, such as fetch. There’s at least one game that your dog will love, just be patient and let him decide which game that is.
DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Should you think that your pet needs medical attention, please contact your local veterinarian.  
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