Human Rules for Playing Tug
Playing tug does not make a dog aggressive. It will raise his or her arousal level so this game is not a safe choice for dogs with aggressive tendencies such as possession aggression or dominance aggression. For all other dogs, this can be a safe and fun way to play and blow off excessive energy.
You Always ‘Win’ Winning the tug game by getting it out of your dog’s mouth is not necessary. He cannot play tug without you and that naturally puts you in control. Dropping the tug toy and walking away ends the game. It is okay if your dog still has the toy; only you can make it come alive! By stopping play, you have exercised control of the game.
You Initiate Tug Anytime your dog makes you do something, he or she is exerting control over you. This generally is not a problem for most dogs, but for some it may be. Be in control of games and play by ignoring your dog’s request to play which is usually a soggy ball or rope dropped on your lap. Instead, choose when you want to play and bring the tug to your dog and start the game.
No Teeth Teach your dog polite and safe social skills by prohibiting any tooth to skin contact. When this occurs, drop the tug immediately to end the game. I add a verbal punisher too, such as “No Sir!”.
Teach “Out” Teaching your dog to drop a toy on command helps to make playtime easier and safer. It also adds in a bit of mental exercise for your dog since they must do a little work to get the tug back or chase the ball again. Start training with a toy your dog really loves and let him take it. Say “Out” and offer a treat. He will have to out the toy to take the treat. Give him the toy back or let him take it again and repeat. Soon the word “out” will result in your dog spitting out the toy to get ready to take the treat!
Katie Weibel, Master Dog Trainer. Providing training for companion, service and working dogs, sharing knowledge and expertise.