I still regularly hear from clients that they have been told they shouldn’t play tug with their dog. It causes aggression; it creates a hard mouthed dog who will damage game (if you’re into that sort of thing); you’ll never get a decent hold if you teach tug. I still hear the only way to play tug safely is to make sure the human always win the game. Would you really want to play with someone who always wins?
Let’s get things straight.
- It is possible to play tug and allow your dog to regularly win the toy without ending up with an aggression problem. There is no link between the two!
- Tug improves retrieve, improves owner/dog relationships and makes play more interactive for all. Dog can’t tug by themselves, so enjoying a game with you should result in them bringing the toy back (bingo! a retrieve) in order to continue the game.
- Tug does NOT cause your dog to have a hard mouth, rip apart game or be more inclined to destroy toys. Bad training causes all of these things, not playing tug with your dog. My Jack Russell Terrier Jellybean can swing about on the end of a tug toy, even be lifted off the ground during tug. Yet, if i ask him to retrieve an object, or indeed a dead bird or rodent my cats have killed, he will retrieve, hold and release without ANY damage to the article or animal.
We LOVE Tug! Sharing toys and playing together starts from day 1.
Susan Garrett gets credit for this game. 'Play with the one I've got'. Laying foundations for retrieve, recall and of course focus.
Posted by Muttamorphosis Dog Training & Behaviour on Thursday, 30 June 2016
Jellybean is about 8 weeks in this video. Already learning that playing with me if more fun than playing by himself.
In this video, you can see the desire to continue the tug, encourages the dog to retrieve.
To make tug safe and fun for all, you need some ground rules.
So this little lad is a natural carrier and retriever but doesn't want to release the toy-not unusual in guarding breeds. I like my dogs to retrieve to hand so I don't like to teach 'drop it' as part of this game. Rather 'release it'. I say 'thank you' which signals the end of the game. My hand goes on his collar without exerting pressure, to stop him pulling backwards while tugging. I don't put any pressure on taking the toy away either. The only way for him to get me to start playing again, is to release the toy. He then heard magic word 'ok' meaning we play again. Note on return I don't always try to take the toy from him or tug straight away. With reluctant givers, they need to be allowed return with the toy and show off with it, rather than believe you'll immediately take it from them. He's such a smart lad and a really quick learner.
Posted by Muttamorphosis Dog Training & Behaviour on Saturday, 20 December 2014
Here is a German Shepherd foster puppy I had over xmas a few years ago learning some rules of engagement for safe and fun tuggy. Can you spot what I’m saying which will eventually become his signal to spit out the toy?
Hold! The magic marker word (or click) tells the dog he has made the correct choice.
The magic of the marker word! (Click)What tells your dog he's made the correct choice? What says 'bingo! That's what I wanted, claim your reward'?So if he doesn't hear his marker word (or click if you're using a clicker) what should the dog do? Try harder! Jellybean had dropped the ted several times on spotting the food reward approaching. But no 'ok' means I (sue) need more effort from you! It's the most powerful way to train. The dog makes the choices. The dog decides which way the game will go and as a result he's a happier, more keen, interactive and cooperative learner. What more could we ask for? Good boy Jellybean.
Posted by Muttamorphosis Dog Training & Behaviour on Friday, 22 December 2017
This is what a solid ‘hold’ looks like and is the foundation for a retrieve (delivery) to hand. My dogs are taught to hold something in their mouth until they hear the magic ‘ok’ word which tells them they have made the correct choice.
How do we start training this? Step by step, clicking all the way!
I'll be putting up a retrieve training video later in the week as it's something I get asked about a lot. An important part of retrieve-to-hand is a hand target so this is your first step to get working on. Initially I'm clicking/rewarding the dog nudging my hand at all. Then I'm changing the picture and presenting the hand lower/higher or for shorter periods so he has to act fast to catch it to target. Once the dog has this idea, I'll start to ask for duration, in other words, a prolonged target without moving. By gradually withholding the click, the dog starts to learn to target for longer over time. Did you see the moment where he breaks away before the click and realises he's made a mistake so he re-targets my hand? More on hand targets here: https://youtu.be/PikwmZUBqmk
Posted by Muttamorphosis Dog Training & Behaviour on Wednesday, 22 February 2017
Hand target first! This is for your delivery to hand. I’m using a clicker in this video, you can of course use a marker word instead.
Retrieve to hand!
So have you been practicing your hand targets? Well then, here's a video as promised, showing how to train a retrieve with reverse chaining. This means training the last piece of the puzzle first and working backwards. Use high value food like chicken or hotdog. As most dogs don't need to be trained the running out to the object part, it's the delivery back that takes most of the work. Step 1Hold a novel article out towards your dog (if needed make it move about so the dog is interested), it can even be a low value chewy. I'm using a nylabone. When your dog puts his mouth around the article, while you hold it, click/treat for this. Step 2: Repeat as above but now, try to click at the point where you feel he's actually trying to take it. Or you feel some pressure from his jaws. Repeat several times. Step 3. Now let go when he puts his mouth around it and click treat for him holding it himself in front of you, even if it's for a split second to start. Repeat several times. Step 4: Gradually withhold the click, so you're asking him to hold it in front of you for longer and longer. Repeat several times. Step 5: Start to ask for a hand target while he's holding it. Click/treat for this. Repeat several times. You can now begin to alter between taking it (click/treat) so you're getting a delivery to hand, or occasionally I click for the hold and hand target but don't take it, so the dog can choose to drop it, to eat his treat. Step 5: place the article in front of you and see if he'll pick it up to hold it in front of you. Click/treat this. Now repeat steps 4&5 from the pick up.Step 6: gradually place the article further and further away from you. He should now know to pick it up and return in front of you for the click/treat.Now's the time to confess this process took about 15-20 short training sessions for Jellybean to get the hang of. So the video below is fast tracked for your benefit.
Posted by Muttamorphosis Dog Training & Behaviour on Thursday, 23 February 2017
Jellybean demonstrating the steps involved in reverse chaining retrieve to hand.
And just to prove how much fun you can have with a solid retrieve and hold, and how gentle my terrier’s mouth is, despite tugging hard when I tell him he can, here is Jellybean searching for and finding a buried £10 note on the beach and bringing it back undamaged.
K9 Myth Busting. Food and/or toys are the only/best way to reward a dog.I'm an unapologetic user of food when laying down foundations with a puppy or new adult dog. I'm also a great believer in keeping a favourite toy for play during times of distraction on walks. However it is of course vital that my dogs learn that both these rewards are only props to Interaction and fun with me. Here are 5 ways you could improve focus and your dogs response to you, without toys or food. Here we are working at the beach where there are distractions aplenty, especially for an adolescent Jellybean. Reward No. 5Play with whatever there is to hand. To prove the game is less about the object and more about the interaction, from early on my dogs play with all kinds of things we find lying around. Seaweed, plastic bottles, feathers, bits of old string and even money. How much am I prepared to risk do you think? #K9mythbusting
Posted by Muttamorphosis Dog Training & Behaviour on Thursday, 5 October 2017