Why teach a dog to tug? Food is just as good (NOT!!!) - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 01-10-2012, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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Why teach a dog to tug? Food is just as good (NOT!!!)

For those that haven't had a chance to follow Susan Garrett yet:

On my blog last week I wrote a two part series of articles I think all dog owners should read.


The topic of these articles is how your tugging style with your dog may be affecting the focus your dog has for you compared to other distractions in his environment.
Since posting the articles I have heard from several of you that you don't believe it is fair to think all dogs should tug. I recognize that some trainers will down play the importance of tugging with your dog but here are a few reasons I feel it is so important;
  1. Interactive Fun. It is something both you and your dog can enjoy. It helps the dog to look to your for his source of fun.
  2. Arousal. Tug is an easy way to get your dog into a "peak state of arousal" -- ready to work, food only trainers have to get the dog physically running to achieve the same results.
  3. Establishing Your Role On the Team. Even if you own a dog strictly for the reason of being a well loved family pet it is important that the dog understand that the two of you are a "team" but that you will be the team leader. You will be the one that tells him to "tug" and you will be the one that tells him to "out" and release the toy every time you ask. In other words you are the "keeper of the joy" all his reinforcement will come through you. Tug games can teach a dog he must respond to every member of the family equally. (*** Please note though, if you have a "problem" dog please consult with a properly accredited behaviorist before working through your individual dog challenges this way. If you have a dog that has tendacies towards human aggression, putting him in a state of arousal may put him over his "tipping point" and you will need experienced supervision to help him!)
  4. Thoug htful in Drive. Those of us that do sports with our dogs, if our training is successful, there will come a time when the dog LOVES the game so much they may not listen to you as they should. Playing games of tug is the first step to teaching your dog, regardless of how excited he gets, he must always respond to your cues!
  5. Limitations. Working with food alone you are limited in your training each day by the amount the dog can/should eat. This is especially true of small breeds or those that put on weight easily.
  6. More tools in the tool box! Food is a great reinforcer. Personally, with some of my dogsI have had to work very hard to make certain that food is as valuable as tug or work alone. If you have a dog that will happily alternate between food rewards and tug reward you can use THE BEST reinforcement for the skill you are training. I will give you two examples of what I mean (but trust me there are many many more).Distance work for example is best rewarded with a thrown toy -- shaping session which require multiple rewards in a short period of time require food rewards. Yes both skills can be trained with the other rewards but efficiency and effectiveness of training will be diminished.
  7. Don't Wanna - Don't Hafta. This is a event that I have named that refers to any time your dog won't do what you have asked because it appears he doesn't seem to want to do it. If you are a trainer that resorts to verbal or physical corrections, you have an option of trying to "make" the dog do it, for me and many of my readers, that is not an option. DWDH moments are our defining moments as trainers. If you cave in and let the dog have things his way you will be limiting your potential training without corrections. The dog must know, yes you can trust me, I will also behave consistently, yes I will always fair to you, no I will never anger or correct you but yes you must always do what I ask when I ask! So how do trainers like us get a dog to do something when he doesn't want to? The answer is . . . we can't. Therefore I want my dog to understand he must never say "don't wanna- don't hafta" to me. In order to get that to that place I "create" the issue outside of formal training. In an environment that I can control. Working through the conflict of getting a dog to tug when he wants a cookie is the best way I know to get this started.
  8. Working through Fear. I can't tell you the number of times working through issues the dog is afraid of becomes soooooo much easier using a tug game compared to trying to work through the same issue with food. For example getting a puppy used to the tipping of a wobble board for training in agility. It used to take me many session for some dogs (those afraid of the movement or the sound) to gain the confidence to work through their fear. With a dog that will tug, it is rare if I can't help the dog to overcome their fear in one session.

Yes there are some dogs that you will have to work at creating this joy to tug, but I believe it can be a great reinforcer for all healthy dogs.

As a last footnote, I would ask those of you to be thoughtful of the way you tug with your dog. My goals is to go with the dog's motion, help to create the action that create's the dog's weight to shift into his rear and then don't you try to create the action. I see people tugging with their dogs like they are trying to "shake out the sheets" in my opinion that can run the risk of injuring the dog's neck. Go with the natural motion of you dog and have fun!

Here once again is the link to the first blog in the "tug series"


All the best for must dog training success!

Susan Garrett
Say Yes Dog Training Inc.
Do-Land International Inc.


Miss Osin Blue Wildhaus NA NAJ NF

"Nothing new can come into your life unless you are grateful for what you already have. ~ "--- Michael Bernhard, gratitude
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 01-10-2012, 07:04 PM
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fine I take the hint!!! Have always taught Jinx with food she WORKS for food and toys she is in a crazy play mode and doesn't focus to actually WORK or learn anything or give any sort of precision. Hubby and I have been talking about it alot and just last night when he tried using a ball tug as a reward and couldn't get any sort of precision out of her or actually paying attention (she'd sit then platz then sit and start going through a routine before she was asked to do anything) I told him I always trained with food and since it works I just stuck with it and never tried to change to toys and now this article.. fine I take the hint I'll learn and transition lol.

BTW that was a bit of a hard poke i think I need a dr. to check it out lol

Jinx vom Wildhaus
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 05:37 PM Thread Starter
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Miss Osin Blue Wildhaus NA NAJ NF

"Nothing new can come into your life unless you are grateful for what you already have. ~ "--- Michael Bernhard, gratitude
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