Tug toys are an important part of dog training. They are a multi-functional tool that can help you develop some of your dog’s abilities, drive, coordination, and more. Most importantly, it is a highly enjoyable reward that you can use to shape your dog’s behavior. But what is the best way to use a dog tug toy?
Well, today, we will talk about how to use this interactive toy, but also what are some of the best dog tug toys.
What Is A Tug Toy?
Before we talk about how to play tug games with your puppy, let’s try and explain this interactive toy. Dog tug toys are toys we use in dog training. They are between 7 and 12 inches in length and 2-3 inches in width. The material is always bite-suit fabric.
The important difference you have to make is that a tug toy is not a chew toy. They only come out when training and you should not leave your dog alone with a tug toy.
How To Play Tug With Your Puppy?
Why is tug better than food? Well, if there are other pups around, food can be tricky. Plus, to use dog food, your dog has to be hungry to be motivated. And if there is another puppy around, it might get excited about the food in your hand. That can quickly grow into an incident.
Using a tennis ball or any other type of ball is not good as well. Why? Because when your dog runs for the ball, it instantly becomes a target to be chased.
When you are playing tug, you are getting a free recall. And free attention from your puppy. Isn’t that something any dog owner would want? Here is a step-by-step guide on how to play tug of war with your dog.
Step 1 Teach The Release Command
Before you can play tug, your dog has to know the release command. This is a command you will use to end the game. It can be release, drop it, leave it, or anything that will stop the game when necessary. Make sure your dog has mastered this command before you can move into tug games.
Step 2 Choose An Appropriate Toy
More on this later. But you need to pick a dog toy that is specifically designed for tugging. You cannot use toys that are designed for fetch, for example.
Generally speaking, the best dog tug toy should be durable and flexible and made out of rubber or similar material. It should have a comfortable handle that will keep your hand away from your dog’s mouth to prevent biting incidents.
Step 3 Initiate The Game
It is important that you set the tone and initiate the game with tugs. You set the rules, and you decide when, where, and how your dog will play tug of war.
Step 4 Take Breaks
It is important to take breaks while playing tug. Otherwise, your dog will become overly excited and start growling. Yes, this is normal. After all, the game itself plays on your dog’s predatory behavior.
Yet, it is important to prevent your dog from becoming overly excited or aggressive. You can do that by taking breaks from the game and preventing it get out of control. For example, you should stop immediately if your dog’s teeth come into contact with you at any point. Teaching bite inhibition is quite important for this.
If you want to have your dog play tug with another dog, be sure to monitor. As long as they get along on a normal basis, they can play. But the same rules apply, the game should be supervised and there should be breaks.
Different Types Of Tug Toys
Generally speaking, there are two types and styles of tug toys. One of them requires you to participate and play with your dog, and the other allows your dog to play on its own.
Handheld Tug Toys
This is a toy that puts you in the middle of the fun as well. You grab one end of the tug toy, the dog grabs the other, and you start the game.
No matter the style of the handheld toy, tugging is awesome with this toy. It requires your input. It is the most common style of playing tug.
This toy will allow you to bond with your dog and improve your relationship.
Tether Tug Toys
This is the type of dog tug toy that does not require your participation. If you remember playing tetherball as a kid, this toy has a similar design and concept. The difference is instead of a ball, there is a rope that your dog can play with.
You can set up the device and your puppy can play tug-of-war at any time. It is the perfect toy for a dog that stays at home while you are at work or away from home.
But the solo play has its downsides. For starters, playtime can turn nasty without supervision and your dog can start acting up.
Most importantly, if your dog gets used to this type of toy, you cannot use it to solve reactivity and shift your dog’s focus toward you.
Can Any Dog Play Tug?
To train your dog to play tug, you have to have a puppy with a strong prey drive. It is an essential part of the game. Your dog’s desire to chase, bite, and shake things.
In this case, a tug toy is a prey object. Your dog gets rewarded for its good behavior by playing tug and getting a little fight out of it. It is a rewarding object.
Now, contrary to popular belief, playing tug does not allow your dog to assert its dominance over you. That is if done correctly. Playing tug should be a way to build a bond, increase engagement, and shift your dog’s focus toward you.
That being said, almost any dog can be taught to play tug games. It is just a matter of teaching them to do it properly.
How To Choose The Best Tog Tug Toy?
I recommend playing tug to solve your dog’s reactivity and aggression. When you anticipate an aggressive behavior, you can shift your dog’s focus to you and the toy. This will result in happy behavior instead of an aggressive one.
But what is the best toy to use? Here are some tips. Generally speaking, there are two things you need to consider when choosing a safe tug toy.
First, choose one with space. This is one way to prevent bitten fingers, the other is to teach bite inhibition. But because during the game, your dog can feel he is slipping off the toy, he might readjust his grip and bite your hand.
Your dog doesn’t have the intention of hurting you. But just to be safe, choose a toy with enough room for your hand, your dog’s mouth and teeth, and a generous gap in between.
Second, choose a toy that can be dropped at a moment’s notice. Do not opt for a toy where you hook your fingers or wrap it around your hand. This can result in injury. Remember, pups are pretty hard to beat in tug. And if you have a large dog, things will be even more challenging.
You have to have a toy that you can drop at a moment’s notice. And then, as I said before, teach your dog the leave it or drop it command before you initiate playing tug.
Why Should You Avoid Ropes?
A popular tug toy is the rope toy. Most of these toys are made of rope. But I strongly suggest you avoid the rope toy.
First, rope frays. It is made of thousands of pieces of string-like fiber that are twisted together. If you use it for a while, your dog’s teeth will pull and fray these strands. It is a natural result of playing tug games.
God forbid your dog swallows any of the pieces of string, you can have problems like an intestinal blockage.
Secondly, you have to consider mouth health. Your dog’s teeth can sink into the rope tug toy, and long and sharp teeth can become stuck in it. That pressure from tugging can harm the mouth’s health.
Last, but not least, it is uncomfortable to grip. If the session last for a longer period, your dog might experience rope burn. These toys are not as comfortable to hold as those made from natural rubber.