Tug Of War With Your Dog

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Tug of War is a great game to play with your dog.  It has a lot of uses, from teaching better self control, to building the confidence of a dog that is fearful. In the past you may have heard that tug of war is a dangerous game that can lead to aggression or reactivity.  When played safely, with well understood rules, this is a great game that can teach a dog so many things about how to interact with humans.

 

Tug of War requires that your dog know two basic behaviors first.  One is ‘drop’ or ‘out’ the other is ‘take’ or ‘tug.’

It is best to teach ‘drop’ first.  To teach ‘drop,’ start with about half of your dog’s normal dinner in a bag.  Call out the word, ‘drop’ and throw a handful of the kibble on the ground.  Your dog should gobble it all up and look for more.  If your dog isn’t interested in the kibble, you may need to switch to treats.  Take a few steps and call out ‘drop’ again, tossing a handful of kibble on the ground.  Move around while you do this, bend over and nudge the food closer to where you dog is eating it, get him or her used to you being near by while he or she is eating the food. Continue doing this until you are out of food.  

 

Rufus still needs some practice 🙂

Do this for each meal for the next few days, but do it all over the house and yard.  Once your dog is automatically looking for the food when you call out ‘drop,’ wait until he or she has a toy in his mouth and call out the word ‘drop’ and toss the food.  Your dog should drop the toy to eat the food on the floor.  As your dog gets better at doing this all over the house and yard, begin to touch or move the toy or pick it up.  Begin to fade out how much kibble you are tossing about, until you are only offering one kibble from your hand for dropping the toy.

At this point fade out the kibble all together, only offering a treat occasionally, and more often offering a chance to play instead by tossing the toy or instigating tug. 

To teach a dog to ‘tug’ get him excited about a toy you are playing with.  Tease him with it a little until he grabs on and then gently pull against it.  He should pull back.  If your dog is very confident and enjoys playing tug, this is fairly easy to do, he will immediately jump into the game.  If your dog is shy or fearful, he may take some coxing.  For shy/fearful dogs it’s a good idea to let him win the first few times to help build up his self confidence.  For very confident dogs, it’s a better idea to challenge his self-control by closely controlling the game and asking him to ‘drop’ fairly frequently. 

Once your dog gets really good at ‘tug’ and ‘drop’ you can start adding in obedience commands with the reward to quick compliance being the continuation of the game.  Much like ‘Sit and Wait.’

Laura Azevedo CPDT-KA

Sarah’s Pet Sitting