Why do dog trainers love to play tug?

One of the questions that we ask dog owners when we assess their dog is “do they like to play tug?” This isn’t just so we know what toys to get him for Christmas; a dog’s enjoyment of this game is a good indicator of his prey drive which is part of what makes him happy. If that doesn’t sell it to you, here are some other reasons why you should dig out that tug toy and get playing…

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- A good game strengthens your bond with your dog. Once your dog learns to play a game, there’s no one he’d rather play it with than you. This is especially true when you control the toy. When you’re ready to play you get the tug toy out and when you’re done it goes away. Your dog learns respect for you as master of the toy chest.

- Puppies tend to use their mouths to investigate the world around them, and most learn that biting can be a fun game. Whilst this may be fine for him and his siblings, once he comes to live with you it’s not so fun. Dogs who like to play the bitey game can think that nipping people can be fun unless we give them an alternative way to play. Playing tug with your dog gives him a positive way to keep having fun without doing damage with his teeth.  

- Once your dog learns to grab on to a toy, you can start to teach him some self control. Commands like ‘out’ or ‘drop’ test a dog’s willpower if he’s having fun, but can be a very rewarding exercise. If he understands to let go of a toy, you’ve got a good chance he’ll let go of something much more important when the time comes… this trick could save your slippers!

If you want to learn more about creating the right rules of the game and how to prevent your dog becoming possessive about a toy, it’s time to call in a trainer. 

Emma Greenwood-Petrie is a partner and trainer at Dog Tags Training