Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tugging with a Reluctant Tugger

My Boykin, Rusty, loved to tug at home. However, when we got to the field with lots of people, other dogs, weird smells, and loud noises, he wanted nothing to do with a tug toy. Although it isn't necessary to have a dog who loves to tug to do agility, it is definitely a good tool to have. Tugging can be used to get a dog excited before a run, to build your relationship with your dog, or to use as a reward while training. 

I found the perfect toy for my reluctant tugger, a treat pouch. A treat pouch is a small bag with a velcro closure along the top and a handle for tugging. These pouches come in many different designs.  You cannot expect your dog to naturally start tugging with the pouch, you must teach him how to tug with it. 

It is important to start out in a place that is very familiar to your dog. The agility field is too stimulating to begin tugging, so start at home. Pick a room that your dog spends a lot of time in. Never push the toy in your dog's face, this will not make him want the toy. You may want to keep your dog on a leash for the first few play sessions, so he cannot run off.

Start out by filling the toy with your dog's favorite smelly treats. Open up the pouch and let him eat some of the treats so he knows what's inside. Close the pouch. Make the pouch come "alive", by moving it quickly along the ground and use an exciting tone of voice.  If the dog shows any interest in chasing the pouch at all, open it up and let him have some treats.  Continue rewarding the dog for any interaction with the pouch for a couple of play sessions.

Once your dog is interested in the pouch, you can start holding out on rewarding until their mouth makes contact with the toy. Start by rewarding your dog for grabbing the pouch for 1 second, then increase the time he/she has to hold on to it (3, 5, 10 seconds, and so on). As your play sessions continue, hold out longer to reward.

After your dog is grabbing hold of the pouch for several seconds, you can start to pull on the other end. Only tug on the pouch for a few seconds and then quickly open the pouch and reward.  Eventually your dog will understand that he must tug with you to get the treats inside of the pouch. While playing tug, remember to allow your dog to "win" sometimes, so he does not get discouraged.

Once your dog loves to play tug with you at home, you can begin to play in other locations. For example, after Rusty loved his toy in the living room, we tugged in my backyard, and then finally at the agility field.

Here is the Clean Run web page with all of the different treat pouches:

Here is the one Rusty has:

Christine and Rusty

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your post, Christine! Great explanation of how to train your dog to tug:-)