Tug can actually be a fantastic game to play with your dog, and serves a number of functions, including but not limited to:
Here is a really fantastic article from Neil Sattin’s “Natural Dog Blog” on a great technique for teaching your dog to tug.
For a different perspective, check out Eric Goebelbecker’s Dog Spelled Forward blog on tug, which features hints and tricks to get reluctant dogs to engage on the tugging process, advise on using tug as a reward for behaviors, and tips for training “out.”
Remember when playing tug, the following rules are important:
In Neil’s article mentioned above, he suggests lengths of rubber hose for tug toys. I’ll be honest, Mokie’s hose tugs are among her absolute favorite toys in the world. (Although she liked the rabbit fur tug better, it took her approximately .5 seconds to absolutely destroy this $20 toy.) The hoses are durable and inexpensive tug toys and the technique Neil detailed is great for using them to build tug drive and is similar to the one detailed in Schutzhund Obedience: Training in Drive by Sheila Booth and Gottfried Dilde.
You can make a tug toy at home from lengths of fleece cut into strips and braided. I like to use a longer tug (24″, generally) with a knot in the middle. The knot in the middle essentially serves one purpose – to divide the rope into “my side” and “your side.” When teeth creep on my side, game is over. This provides an extra bit of barrier between the dog’s teeth and my hands. As the dog is able to “out” the toy reliably and has mastered the art of keeping his teeth off skin, I then begin introducing shorter tugs. If you use the hoses mentioned above, a length of duct tape in the middle can serve the same function of splitting the tug into “mine” and yours” territories.
What are you waiting for?! Get tugging!