Playing tug?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Miyu CGC

Bow down to the- Princess Brat!
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 11:00am PST 
Hey everyone! Just heard this, wasn't sure how true it was and wanted to run it by all of you.

Is there any truth to the statement that playing tug of war with a rope toy with your dog isn't good, because you're allowing them to challenge your dominance? Or is that just a load of crock?

Akita Pals- Always.
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 11:09am PST 
I personally think from my own experience that it is a load of crap. I have Akitas which tend to be a very willful and stubborn breed in general and we have played tug with them since they were puppies. It has in no way made them any more agressive,posessive,or caused any other issue,they are not out to take over either our world or the world at large. They have been well socialized and well trained and although,as true to the breed in general a bit wary of strangers in or near our home,are freindly,happy,socail and sweet with both other people and dogs while in public settings. If you and you dog enjoy a good game of tug,as long as you are meeting the needs for socialization and training,I say have at it and enjoy.flowers

The Monster
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 11:13am PST 
98% of handlers tug with their sports dogs. It's perfectly fine. My only requirement is that my dog has a nice, prompt drop when I ask for it.


You can't catch- me!
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 11:19am PST 
I'm sure it depends on the dog. My dog loves tug, and the opportunity to play tug for the ball is the only reason he bothers to go get a thrown ball in the first place. Second the poster above who says that dog must drop ball when told to drop.

The only hesitation I have is that Koorazh ended up with three damaged front teeth. I have no idea of how they were damaged and my imagination can come up with a lot of scenarios, but I do worry that we might have damaged his teeth playing tug. Or by giving him draw meaty bones. Or by playing frisbee. Or none of the above.

forever loved
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 11:24am PST 
What Cohen said. I think playing tug is perfectly fine, and dogs love it! I also teach my dog to 'give'...and he will give up the toy in a heart-beat when asked. So I don't think there is anything domineering about playing tug...that is all it is, playing (and Twist will hang on tight and play-growl at me too, it's a game both of us enjoy).way to go I will even let him win (another thing you are never, ever supposed to do); it makes him so proud, and he will go bouncing off with his head and tail held high, or lay down and give it a good chew before coming back to play.smile

Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 11:29am PST 
Playing tug was an integral portion to building up Rigby's confidence levels.

Permitting that you are always in control of the game, and there is a solid "drop it" command for use when necessary, I think it's a great way to bond with your dog.

Note that being in control does not necessarily mean you "winning" all the time, especially with a more timid dog, winning can be a big boost to them; what I mean is when you say it's done, the game is done.

we will dance in- the ring without- words
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 11:43am PST 
It is old school, dominance based advise. I too agree with Cohen. And I use tug quite often to teach playful dogs to rev up and cool down on cue.
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 12:15pm PST 
Tug is an excellent training tool that couples play with good impulse control, and also is a great reinforcer!

That said, every now and then you come across a dog where it's nowhere you wanna go. If you find that dog....you know. So it's not as if you avoid tug to avoid a problem, but rather that you have in the back in your mind that very occasional exception.

I have worked just a few and owned one....one of my GSDs, Philo, who was withdrawn from Schutzhund training because it was totally weirding me out. He was a great tug player, but it was seriously amping his drive, spilling out from the training session itself. The first week I put him in front of a helper was the last.

Some dogs have a drive that it is not necessarily dormant....let's say "inactive." Not particularly practiced, so no particular yen to be employed. But given the chance to "taste" it, it goes a little haywire. Chester was like that with lasers. I stopped using them pretty promptly, but it definitely made him far more intense with everything, and in a slightly disturbing way.

With tug, you are getting into a level of the prey drive sequence. Dogs that are particularly intense there may get that taste and then start to seek it in their environment. It is not that they get dominant with you....it's easy to train on the tug, and I have yet to meet a dog who can't be trained to an awesomely precise release....but rather that the "catch" impulse gets awoken. Philo, my GSD who was pulled off tugs and everything else that had anything to do with a catch, was an EXTREMELY social dog, which in an irony is what was hinting to make him doubly dangerous. His wide social center gave him no reserve at all, no discrimination, so he did hold the potential to launch at a very innocent something just because he had "happy pants drive." Is just in a feel good zone, and now has that catch lust. So in example, whereas before he had moderate drive against kids on skateboards, as his prey drive was high, I had a lot of worry that if I ever was inattentive, if he got to chase one, now he would be apt to "catch" them hard with his mouth.

I am very, VERY happy at my wisdom of these concerns...his highly social nature making him somewhat indiscriminate paired with his catch lust. Years later, a foster got in a scuffle with one of my own pets...Chester, 'natch laugh out loud big laugh....and once my Schnauzer came in to bark at them (that was Onion, my angel boy) to quit, it lit Philo, who started to bolt over like a bat out of hell. Although terrifically social and a best friend to all dogs, I feared what he'd do when he got there, so I held my arm out in a "halt!" command, and he nailed it. I screamed his name and he let go right away, but my arm was broken. I was very undone by the incident, but still thank the stars if my gut instinct was to have been affirmed, far better my arm than one of my dogs, let alone a child on his play toy.

None of this....none of it....was even on the charts until we got more into our tug training sessions and he was getting more and more bizarrely intense and thirsty. Not even the same dog....couldn't recognize him. And from that era after, I was super uncomfortable with what it incited, not simply on the tug, but in life generally. It wasn't that he wouldn't release....he was perfecto....it was that mental shift I saw.

He remained safe, save for that one incident, as a well trained dog I felt I couldn't trust off lead capriciously....those were always structured, never around kids. On lead or in a livingroom, etc., he was their best friend. A dog I would trust with anyone, anytime. He adored people, almost to a fault. But if a chase instinct were to have incited the catch response....don't even want to think about it.

So moral of the story....never say never. No reason to stop, but if your dog is weirding you out and you see it starting to translate in his more general life and intensity, you need to stop. Pronto. Remembering that this does link to the most dangerous part of the prey drive sequence.

Edited by author Mon Jan 7, '13 12:16pm PST


Do you even- lift?
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 12:21pm PST 
Many highly trained dogs got to that point with the use of tug as a reward. As others have said, having a 'out' or 'drop' command is important, but once you have that, tug can be a fantastic way to teach some dogs. Many GSDs would rather have a game of tug than food as a reward.

With my dog, I do allow him to "win", but he then brings the toy back to me. I want tug to be about the interaction between us, not about getting the toy and running off with it. Same thing if I throw the tug as his reward- he brings it back. Much easier to use the tug as a reward if the dog isn't always dashing off with it.

This Michael Ellis video is one of my favorite examples of tug and obedience.
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 12:51pm PST 
Correctly done, engagement becomes the game over "winning." That's where, IMO, tug is the best of all reinforcers when a dog has enough interest in it. My Schnauzers are primary on the tug. I have no problem with them winning, as the re-engagement is the reinforcer. That's always what you shoot for smile
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