How to Tug

I read many articles/blogs/info sharings on how to properly tug with your dog. It was very important to me that Zeke be as unaggressive as possible in every way. From the start, I wanted a dog that I could trust around elderly people, children, other dogs, and in all possible situations since I planned on bringing him everywhere. Growing up I had only one elderly family dog-an Australian Terrier. She did not tug, she walked and ate and slept. I was unfamiliar as to how to go about training a dog to tug and whether or not it was a good idea.

I found from my research that tugging is a hotly debated topic! Some people think tugging makes your dog aggressive. Others say you can tug but must NEVER let your dog win. Others tug for fun and these previous thoughts have never even crossed their mind (Doug!). From my own experience with learning to tug with Zeke, I find it to be a great way of bonding with your dog and an invaluable way of tiring him out. Not to mention as your dog gets stronger it is a great upper body workout for yourself!

Zeke is innately gentle. I have tested him and he just will not hurt me purposefully. So, I’m sure it was easier to teach him to tug than with a dog who is naturally more bite-y or more aggressive with people. This is what worked in my experience.

To tug, he learned two commands: “take” and “give”. He had previously learned “give” while playing fetch. I would throw the ball, he would retrieve, as he approached me, ball still in his mouth, I would present another ball I was holding behind my back and say “give” at the same time. He would drop the ball he was carrying and I would throw the new ball. I didn’t even have to use food treats. However, the idea is the same: if your dog has something in his mouth, present a treat and say give and odds are your dog will drop his toy (or random object he picked up from the street!) to take the treat.

To learn “take” all I would do is hold his tug toy in front of him while saying “take” and he would immediately latch on. There is one main rule with tug I always follow. That is to pick one toy (a rope or tug ring) that you use to tug & ONLY take it out when tugging will commence. This way your dog associates this toy with the tugging experience and 1. he will ALWAYS be excited to play with it. and 2. he will associate his obedient tugging behaviors with this toy.

If when beginning to teach your dog tug and they are a bit overzealous and accidentally bite your hand, simply YELP. I probably had to do this only a few times with Zeke before he got the idea he has to be careful as to what part of the rope or ring he puts in his mouth. Now he is fool-proof and the minute he feels my skin touch his teeth he releases on his own and puts himself in a sit-no yelping necessary.

Tugging is a great bonding experience with your dog, especially if you hide the toy and only use it when you play together. It is also a great way to tire out your dog on a rainy day or if he has some excess energy you want to work out. It is also a great way to train some basic behaviors if he is really tug-focused. I like to put Zeke in a sit&wait, move away from him and practice recall and his reward is to tug!

Here is a quick video of Zeke and I tugging a few nights ago. I must recommend this tug ring:  four paws tug toy. The handle is made of fire hose material and is usually longer, but my mom left it out one day thinking it was a regular toy when Zeke was in his “destroy things phase.” Aside from that, it has been extremely durable- I often hold it high up in the air and Zeke flys up to grab it when I say “take” it!

(please excuse my pajamas…)


~ by manicivy on September 1, 2013.

4 Responses to “How to Tug”

  1. Great Post! I am the same way. But I want to be the only one that plays like that. Everyone guest that comes over instinctively wants to play like that with my boxer, Lev. Maybe because he brings a toy to them. Having a designated toy is the trick.

  2. I had similar experiences, when we first started we weren’t sure if we sure play tug with Donna or not because of all these conflicting opinions that we got from people and online. But after a few months when Donna more or less adapted to her new home and grew calmer, we became more confident playing tug with her. She gets a more exciting time playing with Mr P and does more structured “take it” and “drop it” playing with me.

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