Below are common questions and comments stated by clients new to dog training and using play as a reward.
1. “I heard that playing tug with my dog will make them aggressive, is that true?”
The answer is no. Playing tug games with clear boundaries about where to target the toy, and when to let go provides an excellent energy outlet, and typically has nothing to do with aggression towards dogs or people. ***However, dogs with severe resource guarding issues may not be good candidates for tug games, as most dogs find toys highly valuable resources.
2. “I was told that I need to ‘be the boss’ of my dog and always win the tug game, otherwise my dog won’t respect me.”
In order to use tug play as a reward for a given behavior, your dog must feel like he has a shot at winning. Playing tug should be just that; PLAY. Being stomped by the home team (every time) is no fun at all. Playing tug and letting the dog win; thrash it out of your hands, or run with the toy (momentarily), creates the motivation to want more. It’s not a ‘reward’ if the dog feels conflict while playing with the handler.
If you are short on time and/or space, need to exercise your dog, develop an obedience reward that works the mind and body, and get a little exercise yourself, TUG is for you! (and your pup)
Picking the right Tug Toy –
Toys should be sturdy, so you can use them repeatedly. They shouldn’t be so big that they are hard to handle, or so small that your dog accidentally bites your hands. They should be easy to grip (for both the dog and handler), and easy to compress. Most of the toys you will find at the big box stores don’t stand the test of time, are too clunky, too hard, or they have parts that can chip, fall off, break teeth, or become swallowed by your dog. The best tugs are made of rubber, fleece, firehose material, jute, or linen. While these materials are sturdy, they are not indestructible. Never leave the toys with your dog, unattended.
Dog Dynamix carries firehose and linen tugs for sale, or you can purchase them online.