Tugging is one of those opportunities to show our person we can be trusted, no matter how excited we get. Almost everyone I know loves to tug but very few humans seem to understand what makes a good tugger. Today, I’ll cover the basics of tugging and hopefully the word will spread. Remember, my canine friends, humans do what gets reinforced so be consistent in your response to their behavior. It is truly the only way change takes place. Research shows the more positive experiences our person has with us, the less likely they will make us spend time in a crate!
Now I know some of you will get discouraged by your person’s slow progress but Rome wasn’t built in a day so be patient and loving. They’re only doing what they know which means we just need to work harder to communicate the response we want. Our goal is to increase tugging time so hang in there! Eventually your person will catch on!
Here are my suggestions for optimal tugging:
1. Your choice of tug toy is very important. You want to tug with a toy that allows for a strong grip, something that you can really sink your teeth in. After all, you can’t tug if you can’t get a solid hold on the toy.
2. Speaking of teeth. Be very careful where you put your teeth because humans have very tender skin and cannot handle the sensation of our teeth on their skin. In fact, my Mom will immediately stop tugging if my teeth even graze her hand! Trust me, it’s not worth stopping the game due to a moment of careless teeth placement.
3. Which leads me to my next point. When your person tells you, “Out,” “Drop it,” or uses any other words that you know means stop playing, immediately let go of the tug toy and sit very, very quietly. This is also recommended if your person makes any sound or expression indicating sudden pain. You stand a 99% chance of getting to play some more if you respond with self-control. As far as the other 1%, it has been my experience that “someone” has decided tug time is over and there’s nothing you can do about that so don’t even fight it. Simply follow your person back in the house and hope for a treat.
4. Finally, start out easy with the strength of your tugging and build up. Many humans are not accustomed to serious tugging and will complain that it is somewhat painful. This is especially important for those of you with a “play to win” approach to tugging. We’ve all seen what can happen when that gets out of hand and it’s not pretty.
There you have it. Chapter and verse.
Dawson Earnest Huntley
President & CEO
Abolish the Crate Federation
P.S. I would like to thank my brother, Grady, for his helpful insights. He has much more experience with tugging than I do so it was very kind of him to share his wisdom.