Tag Archives: Jay Jack

Tug…. The Right Way

Everyone has advice on playing tug with your dog.

Some say never do it at all, because it encourages aggressiveness.

Some say it’s ok to do it with some dogs, but not dogs that are dominant, because they will learn it’s ok to challenge you.

But then there are a whole slew of professionals that use tugs to create amazing obedience.

So…. What’s the deal?

Here’s how I see it.

They’re right. Both of them.

The problem is, that most people play tug with their dogs without rules, or purpose. They let the dog start the game. Half the time they let the dog pick the toy. They HOLD the toy while the dog tugs (cause it’s way easier). And, They let the dog either stop when it’s bored, or they get frustrated when they try to end the game because they can’t get the dog to let go. This is bad, because if the dogs pick the toy and are able to start when they want, sometimes they pick your sleeve. If they get bored, then it isn’t exciting enough to be used for an obedience reward. And, if they don’t “out” the toy on command, you have a problem. Either, they don’t think you’re in charge and they don’t have to listen to you. Or, they KNOW they need to let go, and they want to….. But they have no impulse control, and they are too excited to comply. Both are bad.

If you play tug “right” it can be an AMAZING way to exercise your dog (and you!). It can tremendously reinforce pack structure. And if you do it often, you can develop a great reward that your dog will work for! That’s why so many Law Enforcement Dog Trainers use toys to motivate their dogs. They learn that you control resources. They learn they you are the source of fun! And what I think is the most important thing……. They learn impulse control!

If they are super driven for a toy, but they can see it waved around in front of them WITHOUT biting it…… That translates to other things that they may want to put in their mouths but DON’T because you said not to. How important does that seem?! Especially for power breeds, or dominant dogs.

In order for tug to be all beneficial, and not cause bad behavior, there must be some clear rules.

Now there are a lot of different trainers out there advocating different styles of tug play that all have a different twist on them. But they all have a few rules in common:

1. You start (and stop) the game.

2. You don’t “give” the dog the toy. The need to go after it.

3. You need to make the game fun. If you just hold the toy, the dog learns that them yanking on things is fun. YOU aren’t fun….. Things are fun. And the point isn’t that they love to play with toys. The point is that they love to play with YOU with the toy.

4. They Should not bite you, or your clothes! (that one should be obvious)

5. You should be able to calmly say out and have them release the toy on one command, and end the game.

Here’s a couple of examples of  trainers doing it well. They are my two favorites of all the tug advocates I’ve seen. They are:

Michael Ellis Video

(this isn’t embedded because the poster disabled it. But, it’s worth clicking. It’s a GREAT example of what solid tug work looks like)

And Ivan Balabanov

(The only one I could find was in German! Apparently, good English footage of quality tug trainers is hard to find without buying the DVDs)

DVD’s and the internet are awesome resources. And if you have to teach yourself I would suggest one of these guys.

But If you’re interested in the way I do tug….

Let ME show you how!!!!


What is Exercise Therapy Anyway

There is a “Biologically Appropriate” amount of exercise that all animals need to achieve optimal physical and mental health. No animal can reach their full potential without it. Dogs are no different. The problem is, in balancing a dog’s need for exercise with a dog’s need for structure. To rehabilitate a dog, they need to have extremely tight structure for a period of time. In order to meet the dogs exercise requirements without ruining their structure, owners have to spend a lot of time doing it….. Or hire us!

Problem is….. Most people’s idea of exercise is just to get them tired. Dog parks, run in the yard, endless fields of toys….. Sound familiar? And you know what….. It works. They get really tired. And no better. Not really.

Look, I realize that there are a lot of dogs out there that don’t really have inherent “issues”. They are just lacking the biologically appropriate activity level that they need. Up their exercise, and their “issues” go away. But, honestly, that’s not the case most of the time. I found out the hard way.

One of the dogs that we named this venture after, Mabel, was a nightmare no matter how many toys she had access to in the huge yard she had.

So what were we doing wrong?

Well, for starters, we weren’t doing any obedience. And that is a huge part of the puzzle. Now, there’s a ton of people who can help with that part so I won’t focus on it.

For something to be Exercise “Therapy” it has to be WORK not play. Most dogs are quite challenged by a treadmill. So, the treadmill is a great way to work them.
Leash obedience can be great exercise is a great way for both you and your dog to work! That means attention training, not slack walking. This is mental work, that happens to be physically challenging too. For you it’s walking or even jogging! For them it’s attention training. You walk, jog, start, stop, change directions. It’s interval running! As long as you keep them engaged, but not too excited, it’s still work!
The other way to work them at this level are what we call trust obstacles. That’s essentially finding obstacles that are mentally challenging for them. This develops leadership, and happens to be, basically, agility work for your dog, and you!
Sounds easy enough.

Or you can play Tug. The right way…. You know…… the way that establishes correct pack structure, and creates a great obedience reward.
Well, here’s the downside. It takes your creativity, dedication, patience, and many times physical endurance. Because it’s work for them, it’s not a mindless activity for you either. And, that’s what people really want. They want a “fix” not a plan! They want to take the dog to the park and let them play while they text. Or they want to go for their own jog for x amount of time/distance and not be bothered with all the starting and stopping, direction changes, or worse, the triggers they run in to! They just want to go for a walk/run damn it.
Well. If you have all the tools, knowledge, patience, and time to give your dog these things, then good on you!

But for the rest of the world…..

Check our services page, set up a consultation, and lets see how we can help you fulfill your dog!