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Tug of war can be one of the most enjoyable games you can play with your pup. Most dogs like to shake things in their mouths and use their teeth to play tug. Many dog trainers feel that playing tug helps to keep your pup both physically and mentally stimulated. It can also help reduce the amount of negative behavior you have to deal with.
The good news is that most dogs seem to instinctively know how to play tug, and it won't take much in the way of training to get your pup playing a rousing round of tug with you. But there are those dogs who will need more than just a little training to learn to play the game the right way.
This is one of the best games to teach your pup, and typically involves using a length of rope with knots tied in it, or any one of dozens of special tug toys you can buy in any pet store. Tug also lets your dog get in plenty of good healthy exercise. It makes your dog think about what he is doing and work at it rather than just letting excitement overrule the game. As with most new tricks you want to teach your dog, he should have already mastered the four basic commands, 'come', 'sit', 'stay', and 'down'.
Keep in mind that if your dog tends to be a bit on the "mouthy" side, you can always use a longer tug toy until your pup masters this particular skill. This might help you to avoid being accidentally nipped while you are playing. Try to make sure that any tug toy you choose is nice and soft, making it easier for your dog to wrap his mouth around and hang on to.
You can teach almost any age dog to play tug-of-rope, but you should wait until your pup is around 1 year old so that his teeth are set in his gums and his bones have had time to become strong. Of course, there are a few things you might find come in handy during the training process, including:
- Treats: You need
a large supply of your pup's favorite treats to reward him.
- A tug toy: It can
be a length of rope or a special tug toy, whatever your pup will play with.
- Clicker: If you
have been using a clicker for training, it's okay to use one now.
Beyond these items, the only other things you need are plenty of time and patience. It will also help if you have a nice quiet place to work. Remember, you are trying to train your dog to play a new game, be patient. If your dog is like most, he will pick this one up quite quickly and before long he will be bringing you a tug toy and begging you to play with him.
The Take It Method
Start with the rope
Start out by calling your pup over and offer him the training rope using the cue words "take it". When he grabs the rope in his mouth, give him lots of praise.
Once your pup has the rope in his mouth, try gently tugging on it. If he immediately releases it, try again. Keep trying until he will hang on to the rope and hold on and start to pull back. Give him a treat and lots of praise.
Introduce the 'tug' command
This time when your pup grabs the rope in his mouth, give him the cue, "Tug!" When he starts to pull back on the rope, go ahead and give him a treat and praise him for doing the right thing.
The 'give' command
So now your pup will tug on the rope, but how do you get him to stop? You have to teach him the 'give' command. To do this, wait until your dog is pulling on the rope, hold out a treat and give him the cue, "Give!". When he releases the rope, go ahead and praise him and give him a treat.
Practice will earn rewards
The rest is all about taking the time to practice playing tug of war several times a day to make sure your pup will 'take it' and 'give' on command. The more you practice, the better your pup will get at the game and the more exercise he will get.
The Peanut Butter Method
Start with peanut butter
Take one end of the rope toy and smear a small amount of peanut butter on it. Let your dog sniff at it and then lick the peanut butter off the end. Repeat this until your pup starts chewing on the end of the rope.
When your dog starts nibbling on the toy, take the other end and wiggle the rope gently.
Rinse and repeat
Keep repeating this process, tugging a little harder on your end of the rope. If your pup drops the toy, keep trying. He will soon figure it out.
This means war
Keep working your way up to the point at which your dog will start pulling back on the toy and playing tug-of-war with you.
The ball is in your court
The rest is all about taking a few minutes to play tug several times a day. It's good for both of you as a form of exercise and a way to bond.
The Get Excited Method
Start with pulling from your hand
Get your pup super excited about pulling a rope from your hand by waving it around in front of his face. When he grabs the rope, give him a treat.
Attach the rope
Attach the rope to an object that your pup should be able to tug on without it moving. A training crate makes a good choice, as you can attach the rope to the door.
Grab the rope
Shake the rope again and have your pup grab it in his mouth. This time have him pull on the rope to open the door to his crate. Be sure to praise him and reward him when he does.
In the crate
Once he has the door open, have him go in his crate and lie down. Be sure to praise him and give him a treat. Call him back out of his crate and repeat the training until he will come over to the crate, pull on the rope, and open the door anytime you ask him to.
When your dog has reached the point where he will pull on the rope anytime you give him the 'pull' command, you can play tug of war with him, train him to use a rope to pull carts, sleighs, open doors, or pull on any number of other items. Just remember to take your time and make the entire training process fun for both of you.
By PB Getz
Published: 12/27/2017, edited: 01/08/2021