|Vintage Athena on her first day home from the shelter with her tennis ball|
Will tug turn Athena into an aggressive pack leader?:
As I began to delve deeper into dog ownership and training information, I read so many things that said not to tug with dogs for various reasons. Some said that tugging would "make your dog aggressive" while others said that "if you don't win every game of tug, your dog with see itself as pack leader." All of this mumbo jumbo scared me, so we stopped playing tug for many months.
|Athena's brand new "Go Ducks!" tug that I recently made for her|
Tugging for dog sports:
That is until we started flyball training. We quickly learned how integral a tug is for flyball as it is with most other dog sports. Essentially, dogs are rewarded with a game of tug after they successfully complete their "job." In flyball, Athena is rewarded with a game of tug for successful box work, passing, recalls, and runs. We rarely use treats at flyball practice, because tug is a HUGE reward for Athena.
|Miss Ball Obsessed even gets tennis balls on her tug toy!|
Creating a well-mannered, focused, and fun, dog with tug:
One major thing that I've learned from using tug in flyball is that there must be rules to the game for it to be successful. Athena had to learn to tug on cue. She is not allowed to touch her tug until she hears the cue "tug." It was also extremely important that we teach Athena a solid "drop it" command for the game. This was a challenge for us, because before flyball started, we really struggled with the "drop it" command. Now, Athena does a solid "drop" and will drop her tug and other toys as soon as she hears the cue (dropping her ball at flyball remains a challenge even though she will gladly drop her ball at the park, however...).
Rules of tug:
When we first started teaching "drop" with the tug, I would say the "drop" cue once and if Athena didn't drop the tug, the tug went bye bye until our next tug session. Five or ten minutes later I'd get the tug back out and try again. Athena quickly learned that if she didn't "drop" the tug, the game would end as quickly as it started. She will still sometimes take a bit too long to drop the tug, so now instead of ending the game and putting away the tug, I will ask her to perform a series of commands before starting a new game (for example I might have her do a sit, down, sit, spin, tug) to get her refocused and to remind her that there are rules to the game.
|Raring to go!|
We also practice the "tug" and "drop" command with many of Athena's toys. Although she has a couple of tugs that we specifically use for practice and at-home tug sessions, we wanted to make sure that Athena understands that "tug" and "drop" apply to other objects such as her babies. This has really helped her to better understand the true meaning of "drop." It is a true miracle that Athena has learned this amazing skill!
Here's a great resource for teaching the "drop" command using food & tug (which we did):
Teach Dog to Drop It / Give by Playing Tug of War
I'm curious, do you play tug with your dog? If you do, what rules must your dog abide by?