I think training a good out is super important because it signifies the game is balanced and without conflict between you and the dog.
Many people have trouble playing tug with their dogs and one of the most common problems is getting back the tug. Many people find that their dog will not out the tug and they add pressure to the dog to try and force the dog to hand over the prey.
Does this work? Well sometimes it does but often it comes at a cost.
What’s the cost?
Adding pressure to a dog will often reduce drive, therefore the dog lets go of the prey (tug). Some people really pressure the dog and therefore push the dog out of prey drive and into avoidance. In fact many people believe it is standard practice to drive the dog into avoidance to get compliance to a command, including the out.
Some people ramp up the pressure and the dog just walks away from the game, so you have lost your motivator now.
Some other dogs are hard, there isn’t enough pressure in your tone or voice so tools have to be used. Remote collars, prong collars, check chains are used to push the dog either through avoidance or escape methods.
Some dogs are socially dominant and if you try pressure them they will turn on you.
Is pressure wrong ?
Not at all but whilst it may get you an out, it may come at the cost of precious drive or damage your relationship with your dog.
When I introduce tug to a young dog or puppy for the first time, I at that same time teach the out. It is the cornerstone of my training in drive program which builds a super bond between the dog and the owner, creates balance in the dog and allows the handler or trainer to gain maximum performance from their dog, with the dog offering the out willingly.
You may be reading this and have a problem with the out, I wish I could give you a simple fix but the problem is often built under many layers that need to be unfolded. When I work with a dog that has an out problem, it most often doesn’t take me long to unfold the layers and get the dog outting happily.
In many cases you have to understand that if you approach the problem of a dog that won’t out the same way you have created the problem, you can’t expect to see a change. You will need to take a different approach that signifies to the dog change has occurred.
Your dog will follow suit and make changes too. Once you have your dog in this new learning mode, you need to shape the new behaviour and teach your dog the benefits of outting the tug. Once trained you need to maintain that also!
If I can give you some advice, it is this.
- The out isn’t the end if the game
- The out isn’t about you taking back your toys
- The out isn’t about pack structure or who is boss
- It isn’t about strength or pressure either.
- Outting must benefit the dog before it can benefit you.
It should be though always considered an exercise, just like the sit, the down, the fetch or any other exercise.
In other words, never stop rewarding it.
I am sure that there are many people reading this that have come to the d of this article and are disappointed that there isn’t a step by step guide to teaching the out or correcting an out problem. For those people try and understand that, your problem likely lays in the way you play with your dog.
It is the difference between your technique driven approach and the dogs instinct that commonly creates the problems. For example, when someone asks me, “what do you do Steve when your dog outs the tug?“.
My answer is that I have about 20 different reactions to it, each one being unpredictable and very rewarding to the dog, I never just say thanks and put it away…
As always love to hear your comments!