Dogs love to play tug-of-war. But some owners may stop playing this game with their dogs because they think that it causes aggression. But the fact is that well-managed tug games can have many benefits. They do not cause aggressive behaviors.
Tips to play Tug-of-War
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Playing tug is an art. Every dog and owner has their own techniques. You should know how to present the toy to the dog. The toy has to be flexible. It should be durable so that it doesn’t break. And other things are like how to interact with your dog during the session. These are some skills to acquire. Tug sessions should be of short duration like 10-115 seconds. There should be impulse control built-in like verbal cues of “Out” and “drop” behavior. You can stop the game when required by giving commands. It should be rewarding for the dog. So, you should be giving some treats.
Go for two to three tugs in a row. And then, you can stop by letting the dog do a thinking exercise. Give your dog a treat as a reward. Then, put the toy away. You can let the dog go excited. Then, let him calm down with some thinking exercises. When he is getting intense, taking a break is always good.
Choose the right tug toy. Choose something that has a greater length. Your dog should be able to re-grip it. They should not get your hand. It should be made of a material that is not harmful to their teeth and gums.
It is important to note that you should not run after your dog if he runs away with the toy or tries to hide it.
You should keep the toy away when you are not playing. You have to initiate the game when you feel the dog is comfortable.
You have to teach the dog that he can only take the toy when you permit it to. You have to say “Take it”. If your dog is new to tug, you can let him take it quickly. Move the toy side to side and not upwards as this can have an effect on his spine.
If your dog’s teeth come in contact with you, you have to stop the game. Say “Out”. Do not allow children to play tug with pets as they can get overwhelmed. The duration of the game is dependent on you and your dog. As it becomes too intense and the dog gets over-excited, it is a good time to stop the game. But if he is having fun and it is not getting too intense and straining, then you can continue.
Benefits of playing Tug
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Tug can provide the dog with impulse control. It builds confidence. It makes the bond between the dog and owner strong. It calls for natural drives. It can be motivational. It can be reinforcing. It has a high value in terms of training. It is physically and mentally stimulating. It helps burn extra energy.
You also have to let your dog win a game of tug. You are not making him dominate you in this way. You are actually making a stronger bond with him. You are making him learn that playing with you is rewarding and full of fun. You can have a shared holding. If you allow the dog to win, then both of you can celebrate together. The dog gets an opportunity to bring the toy back to you.
The Tug can create confidence in dogs. It can help them build focus and they can focus on you in distracting situations. It can help release stress and anxiety.
Tug is good for dogs who can have impulse control. In tug, the dog has to wait for the toy, and drop it when said so. This is a part of the game. The ability of dogs to keep patience is also a skill.
It physically tires the dog and it is good because the dog doesn’t get lazy. It is fun altogether to play tug both for the dog and his owner. It is entertaining for the dog.
Interaction during the play is a great way to make it more meaningful. The dog also doesn’t show behavioral problems. Dogs which play tug are more likely to come when they are called. It increases obedience behavior. They also do not suffer from separation anxiety. Dogs like to be social. Tug is a great way to be sociable with your pet and spend quality with them.
Tug is based on the positive reinforcement principle. When the dog completes the task, he is rewarded with a treat. Also, it is like this- when your dog completes any task that you said, he gets a game of tug to play with you.
It can be played minute for minute. It redirects destructive chewing. It creates a distraction.
Avoiding injuries in the game
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Another important thing is that you should not play too long. Do not play too rough. Many injuries happen when you use incorrect techniques. Or, when your dog has an existing injury.
You should try to keep the spine in a neutral alignment. Do not take the tug and move it up and down. This is because the dog will come off the ground and his neck will get twisted.
You should also balance the pressure based on the dog’s age and conditions. When you are playing with younger dogs, use light resistance. You should also go for this in older dogs with any previous physical illness.
When you are playing tug with dogs who otherwise do hard exercises and sports, keep in mind that they can have issues in the spine. And most such dogs don’t really show pain. So, you have to be watchful about any signs of pain. And if you see them, get your pet checked by a vet. Try keeping the dog in alignment.
Tug can’t be played by every dog
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Not every dog likes to play tug. Some like different types of toys. Some like food. Some like praising as a reward. High-energy dogs usually like a tug. Those who have working drives have a better appetite for this game.