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Tug O' War


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Is it bad to play tug o' war with your dog? I've been told multiple times that it encourages growling and resistance. If it really isn't recommended, what are some fun games to play (besides catch and all the typical activities)? What toys are the best and most safe?

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Love your avatar image :D

 

I try to incorporate training and obedience into every play session. It makes learning more fun for the dog, and it makes the commands more reliable in the long run because I am asking them to obey despite being highly aroused.

 

Tug of war is just fine as long as the dog knows it is a game. In fact, it is a great game to teach the dog the commands "take it" and "drop it." The drop it command comes in very handy in case the dog every picks up something it should not have. It is also a great game for teaching a dog to get excited then calm down instantly on command (you can use a word to mark the end of the game).

 

I like to play fetch by taking my dogs to a field with grass that is tall enough to hide a tennis ball but not over about a foot high. Dogs are put in a down stay and must wait while I throw the ball with a Chuckit. (You may need to have them on leash at first to enforce the down stay.) When I give the release command they can then go find the hidden ball. It teaches self control and is more mentally stimulating because they have to search for the lost ball. (Take extras in case you lose one.)

 

If you get creative, even a simple game of fetch can become a fun training session.

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There are differing opinions on the matter, but many, many people play tug of war. In fact, in agility and other sports, tugging is highly encourgaged for a variety of reasons and they even write articles and give little workshops on how to use tug of war as a way to motivate and reward your dog. At one point, some agility people were insisting that if your dog didn't tug, you would not be successful in the sport. :lol:

 

I think it is important to have a few rules to avoid problems. My rules are pretty simple. 1. I start the play (no tugging until I give the cue) 2. No teeth on skin (accidental or otherwise) and 3. I stop the play (dog stops tugging as soon as I give the cue).

 

 

Quinn is a pretty intense tugger and his teeth have been known to scratch skin. When that happens, I mark the event with a sharp "Ow!" and all play stops for 20 or 30 seconds. Then we resume play and he is much more careful. Our games consist of lots of him winning as well as lots of me telling him to release the tug. It is a fun, exciting game for him.

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I heard that, too, when I first got Sammie, who was the first of our dogs. Since then I've learned that tug is a great game. I use it to build drive, encourage bonding, and as a reward in training.

 

I teach a release cue - I make that part of the game when teaching it. Then we play, I cue releases and either throw the toy for the dog to bring back to me, or call the dog back to the game.

 

Some say to never let a dog "win" at tug (letting go to let the dog make off with the toy briefly), but I allow it all the time, and sometimes the dog "wins" by his own right! Sometimes the dog "wins" and sometimes I "win". I consider tug to be a game, not a template for life in general, so the whole dog "winning" thing is not an issue for me.

 

I have yet to have a dog turn "aggressive" from playing tug. While my dogs do growl and grunt during tug, it is clearly play growling and grunting. It is an expression of excitement, not a threatening thing. I can tell the difference very easily.

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You should listen to this:

 

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/26/136497064/the-new-science-of-understanding-dog-behavior

 

On tug of war:

 

"Let's take a very simple piece of advice that trainers take out, which is you should never allow a dog to go in front of you through a doorway because it will give the signal to the dog that you are submissive and are therefore allowing him or her — the dog — to become dominant. Take another one. Many trainers advise against playing tug of war games because there is a risk the dog will win and the dog, by winning, will think that you are being submissive and he will therefore be able to control you in the future. We've done research into a number of these things — including the tug of war game — and have shown that the premise is just completely not true. If you do let a dog win over and over again at tug of war, it likes you. It wants to play with you more than it did to begin with because it's having fun. If, on the other hand, the dog gets less attracted to you and doesn't so much want to play with you — again, but there's absolutely no change of the dog's behavior outside of that particular situation of play — the dog does not get into its head that you're kind of a soft touch and that in the future it will be able to control you and whatever you do."

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I play tug with my working dogs and two of them (Lark and Ranger) play tug with each other. Lark will play tug with Ranger on my cue. Lark learned tug as a means to keep her from aggravating the snot out of one of my other dogs by hanging on her cheek fur (when Lark was a pup and Kat wouldn't correct her). Not one of my dogs thinks that it is dominant over me or any other such silliness, even if they win at tug, which happens often enough. Tug is a game, and as others have said, it can be used to teach useful commands like "drop it" or "bring it here" (also taught with fetch) or "all done." Have fun tugging with your dog!

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Yep, all of the above. ^^^^

 

I also play tug with my dog. As long as there are rules (as described in several of the previous posts), I believe tug is a great game for interacting with your dog AND at the same time, a way to teach the dog that you control the situation.

 

I got the "never play tug with your dog" lecture about 4 years ago from my vet when I brought my new BC puppy for his first appointment. The vet recommended I read one of the books published by the Monks of New Skete. I did not read the book, but I have a feeling that they recommended against tug games. And of course, the book was published at least 20 years ago. A LOT has changed with respect to dog training in the last 20-30 years.

 

Learn how to play appropriate tug with your dog and have fun.

 

Jovi

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Scooter loved to play tug o' war, but half the time he'd let go first. :rolleyes: I think he secretly got a kick out of pulling as hard as he could then suddenly releasing the rubber stick and watching it smack unsuspecting humans in the mouth. :D

 

I found it was a good way to teach "leave it" and "drop it." He also learned the hand signal for "time out" while playing tug, which shocked the heck out of me the first time I did it. He dropped to the floor and laid there like he'd known the command all his life. It was fun to do when guests were here. They couldn't believe their eyes.

 

I think the important thing about tug of war is for you to control when to play and when to stop. And, yes, it was always a good work out for both of us. :)

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In the sports world tug drive is GOLD, and makes training that much easier.

 

Yup. Around here we work on tug as a reward and there are rules. I present teh tug with very specific body language (two hands on the toy, outstretched) but you don't grab it until I say "get it" so theres actually 2 cues, and without both, dogs are not permitted to take it at all. When I stop tugging back and hold the toy still, the game is over and you must let go. You also let go if I say "Out."

 

Used, the game is fun, it helps cement that working with me is fun, its a great stress reliever for him and also is great for teaching self control (by learning the above rules) because he gets wound up and tugs like crazy, then has to calm down and think.

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Yup. We play tug too. Builds confidence, trust and drive. and it helps tremendously with your Dog's impulse control. I was initially told no tug. Really struggled with training my dog. Switched trainers and started using tug, was resistant at first, but it made a big difference. You do need to teach a cue to start - I use "get it" and a cue to stop or release - I use "give". There are lots of resources on how to train these cues and appropriate tugging. Check out susan garrett's dog agility blog or clicker dog site. Appropriate tugging can transform your training and relationship with your dog. last spring, after working sheep, we turned the dogs loose in a big pasture. Four deer, chose that moment to jump the fence and come into the pasture. My very fast girl, took off after the deer and actually headed on off. The deer turned and jumped the 4 foot fence. She turned to follow and at that moment I called her. She spun around and came too me -- truly because of all of the value we had built through tugging and recall work.

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I agree with all of the above.

Great game, fun for all, and another opportunity to teach good manners. I am using it to help my very scared puppy-mill foster dog gain confidence. And if you sit on the floor with your back straight and knees bent and feet on the floor and pull hard in a smooth motion, using both hands on the toy and pulling it toward your body between your knees, then let the dog pull back, then pull in again and repeat, it is better for back and biceps than a rowing machine! :D

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I think it depends on the dog. I play tug with Meg and we work on 'drop it' at the same time.

 

I had to teach Bear not to tug. With him, everything goes in the mouth. It was much worse when he was a puppy (until her was about 3 years old) and I needed to be able to take things (occasionally potentially harmful things) from him and have him give them up easily. With him (at that age), there was no halfway...it was either allow tugging or don't. So no tugging for Bear.

 

As for other games, a great game for indoors is hide and seek (great for when we're cooped u in the wintertime). Theres the traditional 'person hides, dog seeks'. We play with toys. Dog waits in one room (good time to practice 'stay') while I hide a toy in another room. Release the dog and say 'find it' or 'get it' and the dog finds the toy. Start out by putting the toy in obvious places out in the open, maybe even allowing the dog to watch you 'hide' the toy. As your dog gets better, you can make it harder, encouraging them to use their nose to find the toy.

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I always find it annoying when someone's personal opinion trickles up and manages to become conventional wisdom.

 

When I was a kid, we always played tug with our dogs and never had any dominance issues. Then, when I was about 25 or 30, the mentality that "tug = dominance issues" became prevalent, and 'everyone' knew that you shouldn't do it. Then, when I got my dog, my trainer told me it was "old school" to avoid tug of war.

 

It's the same with child-rearing advice and an infinite number of other things. Who starts telling the story in a particular way, that everyone starts believing it, and then how long does it take for reason to step back in? Psychological fads, are what these things are.

 

Mary

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