Tug of War And Peace With Your Dog

Tug games can be very beneficial for dogs. Playing tug is a bonding experience between dogs and their owners. It helps burn energy and build muscle in dogs. It's great for mental stimulation and development of motor skills. It can even help clean dogs' teeth.

The secret of playing tug games without teaching your dog inappropriate behaviors is to follow the rules of tug. The first rule of tug is to teach your dog the "take it" cue. Your dog will not be allowed to grab a toy (or any other item) from your hand unless you tell your dog to "take it.

" To teach this, start with a toy that's small enough you can hold most of it in your fist ? a small ball, small rope, or squishy plush toy are good options. Make sure it's a toy your dog likes. Let your dog see that you have the toy, then hold the toy in your fist so your dog physically cannot steal it from you. Hold the toy within your dog's reach, so he can nibble and try to get the toy out of your hand. Eventually he will give up and back away from your hand.

At that point, you can say "take it," open your hand, and let him have the toy. Practice this several times, until your dog immediately backs away from your fist when you're holding the toy, in anticipation that he will get the toy if he backs away. Once your dog knows "take it," you're ready to start playing tug.

Get a toy that is easy for you to hold onto ? a longer rope, larger plush toy, etc. Tell your dog "take it," but don't let go of the toy. Tug back and forth to make the game interesting and mentally stimulating for your dog. Don't jerk it side to side too much, though, as this could cause whiplash and other injuries.

And never pull your dog's feet up off the ground in tug. The second rule of tug is that your dog must drop the toy when you ask him to. To do this, you will have to teach a "drop it" cue.

Whenever you are ready, get a strong grip on the toy, and just hold it perfectly still. Your dog will wonder why the toy is boring all of a sudden. Be patient ? eventually your dog will let go of the toy. When he lets go, reward that ? say "take it" and let him grab the toy back, give him some good treats, pet and praise, etc. After practicing this several times, your dog will begin to automatically drop the toy when you stop wiggling it. That's when you can start teaching him the cue "drop it;" as soon as you think he's going to drop the toy, say "drop it" (then reward as usual), and eventually your dog will pair the cue with the behavior.

The last rule of tug is that accidental misses are not allowed. If your dog's teeth hit your skin in any way ? an accidental nip when he was going for the toy, a brush against you because he's so into the game, or of course an intentional nip or bite ? the game ends immediately. Get up and leave, taking the toy with you. Your dog can learn to control his teeth, and this method teaches that using very strong motivation ? one "miss" and the game ends. Of course, if you are ready, you can go back to playing after a short (two to five minute) time out. While tug games are fun for the majority of dogs, there are certain situations where they will not be appropriate.

If your dog shows signs of aggression or resource guarding, tug will likely make it worse. If your dog has joint or skeletal problems ? for example, in the hips, elbows, jaw, neck, or back ? strong tugging can injure your dog further. And children should always be supervised by an adult when playing tug. Happy tugging! Elizabeth Morgan, CPDT.

Elizabeth Morgan is a Certified Dog Trainer and a contributing author at http://www.lucysdoghouse.net. Lucy's Dog House has a great selection of tough dog toys|dog chew toys, and other fun dog toys as well as a variety of great products for you and your dog.

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