Playing tug is an art form, sure you can just let your dog swing off something you are holding but if you want to truly master this motivational game, read my top 5 tips to help you learn how to reward your dog at the highest level.
First a look at what playing tug is, and what it isn’t.
- Playing tug can satisfy a dogs natural prey drive
- Playing Tug can help you build a strong bond with your dog
- Playing tug can form a huge reward value to your dog and this can be used to motivate and reward your dog in training
- Playing tug can be a huge amount of fun for both you and your dog
- Playing tug will not make your dog aggressive!
- Playing tug with your dog will not make your dog dominant
- Playing tug with your dog is not about pack structure or rank, it is a motivational game!
Tip # 1 The Toy
Choose a tug toy that will suit the size of your dogs mouth and one that your dog can grip. I recommend avoiding squeakers and animal furs where you can, replicating a small noisy animal in distress and building a high energy game of attacking it may not pan out the way you think it will.
Professionals don’t use tugs that look like animals. Have a read of my article, How to Choose a Tug Toy, here.
Tip # 2 Control the Game
You can whip out a tug and move it around fast, a prey driven dog will be after it in no time, but what happens when you can’t start the game by showing the dog the tug toy or moving it? Using a Trigger Cue or Predictor Cue before you produce the toy will give you power over the dogs prediction, and when this game will start.
Tip # 3 The Out
The out, release, give or hand over of the tug is the most important part of the game, it shouldn’t mean that the dog is about to feel pain or pressure, it shouldn’t mean that your dog needs to give you back your toy or else.
The out is something your dog should want to do, and if you train in drive properly your dog will out the tug willingly with a high amount of motivation no matter how much drive your dog has.
Using pressure, corrections, threats or intimidation isn’t the way to get a great out.
Tip # 4 Creating pro active drive in your dog
Most dogs with high prey drive will also be movement stimulated, if your trying to get your dog to chase a tug and whipping that tug around fast, that probably is working to your benefit, but if your trying to get your dog to focus you may find it is your enemy. My tug games centre around me producing the tug and the dog striking it.
I don’t reward the dog for reacting to tug movement, but instead reward the dog for pro actively generating movement in the tug.
Tip # 5 Self Control
A high drive dog that has a high value for the tug can be dangerous if you don’t teach your dog that the tug game isn’t available until you say so. A release to strike the tug protects me from a high drive dog snatching at a tug I am carrying.
The release cue also enables me to capture the behaviour I am trying to reward, which brings super accuracy into my training.
You can see the shear enjoyment that dogs have playing this game, to the right is Lottie, the Aussie Shepherd!
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Training in Drive is the method of training I like the most, it is fast, accurate and provides great motivation and control over driven dogs. Dogs that perform at the highest levels in our Police, Military, Rescue, Obedience Competitions and more all train in drive in some method or another. I believe my program is structured and easy for my clients to follow, well as easy as a high performance professional dog training program can be.
At the end of the day, Training in Drive is a very instinctual program aimed at making the most out of your dogs drive’s. I have tried to design my program to suit more than just the highest level dogs, but of course the highest level drive dogs as well.
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Some dogs will not thrive in this program, some that are too nervous, frightened, old or inactive may not benefit, whilst some handlers may also struggle, which is totally fine, we have methods of training which are still motivational that will suit these dogs.
Training is about what works best for you and your dog, not about trying to force a method on your dog that doesn’t suit its temperament…
If you would like to know more about Training in Drive, we offer private classes, workshops, seminars and correspondence courses on this topic!
Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more!
Steve and Venom!