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Whats everyones opinion on playing tug? It seems to vary from good to bad. some people say its too rough, it teaches the dog to be more aggressive, etc. and others say it's a good thing to learn and foster. I looked up some videos on tug especially Michael Ellis' videos but his focus is all protection work mostly and very little pet training. A lot of what he says is the complete opposite of what normal pet owners would want. His training philosophy is all about giving in to the dog, letting the dog "win" at tug so he builds confidence, encouraging biting and clamping, etc. which is all that I want to avoid at least for now. I don't want a puppy that not only bites but clamps down and wants to win and there's no way to get her to let go.
 

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Tuggie is a great game and what Micheal does is very appropriate for the pet owner too. It's a great way to bond and build confidence in your pup, not to mention it's a fabulous training tool. Your pup lets go because you teach her to let go.
 

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There's nothing wrong with tugging, it's a great way to play with your dog! Agility and flyball people use tug rewards all the time, it's not just for protection work. You can use a tug to work on impulse control, and you can and should train an "out" so she learns how to let go on cue.
 

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There's nothing wrong with tugging, it's a great way to play with your dog! Agility and flyball people use tug rewards all the time, it's not just for protection work. You can use a tug to work on impulse control, and you can and should train an "out" so she learns how to let go on cue.
Yeah I had a real hard time with my puppy not letting things go out of her mouth. It's probably too young to tell but she has high prey drive and I think what they would call "fight drive". She's a little bit feisty. I thought I'd play tug and try an exercise where I encourage tug (as long as I initiate) and she would grab hold of a folded up towel and I mark with YES! Good tug and praise. And I shake it about and get her ramped up with high energy, real playful. And when i want her to let go, my energy level plummets, my voice pitch changes to serious and I say "Let go" and the tug toy goes limp. It took her a while and she's still learning but she'll continue to chew for a while and then when she does eventually let go, I mark YES! and praise "Good let go!" and immediately follow with "Tug!" and play again. Her reward for letting go is more play time and hopefully through this, it will help her to control her impulses. So far she has absolutely ZERO impulse control as a puppy and if she has something in her mouth, she is fighting to keep it at all costs. I have to pry open her mouth to take twigs, leaves and stuff out but recently she's been biting hard with pressure again when I do that so I need to figure out how to address her control.
It's just my luck that a lot of this happens in the yard some place farther away from her crate, so "walking away" isn't exactly as clear as if I were to end play and walk away from her playplace.

The other issue is, I feel like she is respecting me more and her biting is less but I see that she is snapping and biting at another family member. She senses weakness and lack of enforcement.. sometimes human training is more difficult than dog training. everything I do is undone whenever she hangs out with someone else. Need to get on the same page... :/
 

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I use tug as a reward during training. If I don't want him to get bored with food treats, ill start using his favorite toy (a football with rope) and engaging in tug with him for doing what I asked. Then repeat


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It' a great way to teach boundaries and easy when they weigh only a few pounds.
I love playing tug with the (now) big guy. And..you can play it inside too.
 

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I teach 'drop it' as well as 'leave it' while playing tug. Even when they're so into shaking it and making their victory run after 'winning' she has learned to drop her tug toy upon command. It's a wonderful game! Good exercise for both parties too for I know I always feel sore and Zeeva is usually out of breath after playing for a while!
 

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sometimes human training is more difficult than dog training. everything I do is undone whenever she hangs out with someone else. Need to get on the same page... :/
I hear ya there! My husband refuses to be on the same page as me when it comes to training and then complains about the stuff our dog does to him. I am shocked when he tells me bc he has never done these things with me. And when I do try to explain to my husband about the research I'm doing on training methods he takes offense to it like I am belittling him. I can only imagine how brilliant our dog would be if we were both putting the same amount of time and effort into his exercise and training.
 

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YES!!! I think tug is one of the best things you can teach your dog. It establishes a play realtionship and makes IMO the best reward system because it involves YOU. Tug is about interaction with the handler, not just getting a piece of food or a toy to chase. It is an excellent outlet for dogs that like to bite, it's good exercise (for them and you) and it's good mental stimulation. I HIGHLY recommend the Michael Ellis video the power of playing tug with your dog. If I could only own one training DVD that would be it. Tug is a pretty complex game and you will be much more successful if you have a good idea of what you are looking to accomplish and the mechanics of playing the game.

Here is a video of me playing tug with Havoc (with some random behaviors thrown in.) He is about 17 months old and it took a good year of working at it before he was playing the game well (outing and bringing the tug back to me when he wins.) This was a huge accomplishment for us and has helped us to create a better realtionship and helps us work together as a team in all our other training.


Here is a short clip of Odin playing tug too, Odin was much easier to teach since he is not independent and possesive like Havoc. Notice when I let go of the toy he comes flying right back at me? That is what you are looking to accomplish.
 

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When you introduce the release word, if you really want to have some fun, stay away from the word "out" although I know this is the most popular word. The reason being, GSDs have a wide range of vocalizations, and you can eventualy train your dog to tell you "Owwww" when they need to pee. It's so cute!
 

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Well, they say all sorts of things anyway, lol. But if you take the initiative, when they ask to go out (ringing a bell, circling at the door, barking at it, whatever) you say, "wanttogo OUT?" enough times, they'll eventually start to say, "Owww" and you praise them for saying it. Then they'll just come up to you and say it when they need to go. I've trained all my GSDs to do it, and my puppy is just starting to do it to. I love it!
 

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Well, they say all sorts of things anyway, lol. But if you take the initiative, when they ask to go out (ringing a bell, circling at the door, barking at it, whatever) you say, "wanttogo OUT?" enough times, they'll eventually start to say, "Owww" and you praise them for saying it. Then they'll just come up to you and say it when they need to go. I've trained all my GSDs to do it, and my puppy is just starting to do it to. I love it!
I use "outside" for that. :)
 

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The old school of pet dog training warns against playing tug because it is believed to increase the potential for aggression. When a dog "wins" the game of tug, it increases his confidence and teaches him that he can overcome a human and become dominant.

I think that theory has its roots in the fact that protection training uses tug-of-war to teach a dog *to* bite, and eventually, to bite a human.

Personally, I don't think tug-of-war in and of itself is going to *make* a dog aggressive or dominant. I think tug is a great way to play and interact with a puppy, to get him used to the idea of biting something other than your hands and pant legs, it develops muscle and coordination, and releases energy.

For a pup bound for SchH or protection training, you want to develop the bite and the re-grip, teach him to hold and posess the tug, and you always let him win the game. The dog doesn't learn the release or "out" command until later.

For a pup that is going to be a pet or companion dog, you can still play tug, but IMO the focus should be less on building the bite and more on teaching the release. For an underconfident dog, winning the tug helps build confidence. If the pup is already plenty confident, it won't hurt him a bit to learn the release at a young age.

Once the pup learns to love playing tug, the tug toy can then be used as an obedience reward, whether the pup is doing bitework or not.

You do have to be careful playing tug while the pup is teething. I usually suspend tugging games during this period and play ball or something else instead.
 

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Yeah I had a real hard time with my puppy not letting things go out of her mouth. It's probably too young to tell but she has high prey drive and I think what they would call "fight drive". She's a little bit feisty. I thought I'd play tug and try an exercise where I encourage tug (as long as I initiate) and she would grab hold of a folded up towel and I mark with YES! Good tug and praise. And I shake it about and get her ramped up with high energy, real playful. And when i want her to let go, my energy level plummets, my voice pitch changes to serious and I say "Let go" and the tug toy goes limp. It took her a while and she's still learning but she'll continue to chew for a while and then when she does eventually let go, I mark YES! and praise "Good let go!" and immediately follow with "Tug!" and play again. Her reward for letting go is more play time and hopefully through this, it will help her to control her impulses.
This is where using food in training can be very helpful. My "let go" command is "give", and when I say it I want my dogs to immediately drop the toy. So when I was training Halo, who is also a feisty little :censored: :D I'd use my cue and put a nice smelly treat right up to her nose. When she dropped the toy to take the treat, I marked it, either "yes!" or with a clicker, and then she'd get the toy again.

Mostly I did this to get her to give up a ball, which she's the teeniest bit obsessed with. :wild: The food helped teach her what the command meant, (and why she should comply!) and I was able to phase it out pretty quickly because giving up the toy made playtime continue, so that became the only reward necessary. I could have simply waited her out, and there are definitely times in training where I'll do that, but I want my commands to be associated with doing the behavior correctly, so I either don't name something until they're doing what I want (in your example I would not be saying "let go" until she will reliably give up the toy when you make the toy go limp, and THEN I'd add the verbal cue), or I'll show them what the command means with a food lure. Holding food up to her nose is basically a lure, and I usually only need to do that a few times before switching to giving the food reward after the fact, and then phasing it out entirely because by then, they're responding to the command right away.

So far she has absolutely ZERO impulse control as a puppy and if she has something in her mouth, she is fighting to keep it at all costs. I have to pry open her mouth to take twigs, leaves and stuff out but recently she's been biting hard with pressure again when I do that so I need to figure out how to address her control.
There is actually a very easy way to train her to give up stuff voluntarily. From the time I get a new puppy I do trading games as part of our foundation work. I use their toys, nylabones, whatever. Give up THAT, and I'll give you THIS in return. Again, I'll start with food, so they get a food reward AND another toy or bone, or the original toy or bone back again. Encourage her to bring you a toy for a treat and then give her the toy back again. The more you can work on this (I'd suggest a few minutes every day or even a couple of times a day) with as many different items as possible, you more she'll learn to trust you and not feel the need to guard purloined objects.

This absolutely will transfer over to items that she's not supposed to have and that you need to get away from her, and while there will still be times when you may have to pry her jaws open to get something out of her mouth, she should be playing the keep away game less and less. Remember that at her age she doesn't yet know the difference between everything that's hers and everything that's not, so she won't necessarily know that the shoe she found on the floor is something you're going to take away and not give back.

Halo actually turned this into a game I call "can I have that?" In addition to the "give" command, which is non-negotiable, she brings me stuff and I ask her if I can have it. She gives it up, I tell her how wonderful she is, and then I give it back. This is something she started doing on her own. Not only does she not guard bones from me, she will bring them to me to hold for her while she chews them. I made a short video of our game a while back - she had already brought it to me and I took it away from her at least once before grabbing the video camera:

 

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If we didn't play tug I'd be in big trouble. It's a great training tool, I use tug as a reward, a great outlet on a rainy day and as someone else had mentioned it comes with an even better reward, YOU.

I don't really buy into the whole "you need to establish dominance" over your dog, I want a happy confident dog that respects me.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
YES!!! I think tug is one of the best things you can teach your dog. It establishes a play realtionship and makes IMO the best reward system because it involves YOU. Tug is about interaction with the handler, not just getting a piece of food or a toy to chase. It is an excellent outlet for dogs that like to bite, it's good exercise (for them and you) and it's good mental stimulation. I HIGHLY recommend the Michael Ellis video the power of playing tug with your dog. If I could only own one training DVD that would be it. Tug is a pretty complex game and you will be much more successful if you have a good idea of what you are looking to accomplish and the mechanics of playing the game.

Here is a video of me playing tug with Havoc (with some random behaviors thrown in.) He is about 17 months old and it took a good year of working at it before he was playing the game well (outing and bringing the tug back to me when he wins.) This was a huge accomplishment for us and has helped us to create a better realtionship and helps us work together as a team in all our other training.

Havoc playing tug - YouTube

Here is a short clip of Odin playing tug too, Odin was much easier to teach since he is not independent and possesive like Havoc. Notice when I let go of the toy he comes flying right back at me? That is what you are looking to accomplish.
Odin playing tug - YouTube
This is where using food in training can be very helpful. My "let go" command is "give", and when I say it I want my dogs to immediately drop the toy. So when I was training Halo, who is also a feisty little :censored: :D I'd use my cue and put a nice smelly treat right up to her nose. When she dropped the toy to take the treat, I marked it, either "yes!" or with a clicker, and then she'd get the toy again.

Mostly I did this to get her to give up a ball, which she's the teeniest bit obsessed with. :wild: The food helped teach her what the command meant, (and why she should comply!) and I was able to phase it out pretty quickly because giving up the toy made playtime continue, so that became the only reward necessary. I could have simply waited her out, and there are definitely times in training where I'll do that, but I want my commands to be associated with doing the behavior correctly, so I either don't name something until they're doing what I want (in your example I would not be saying "let go" until she will reliably give up the toy when you make the toy go limp, and THEN I'd add the verbal cue), or I'll show them what the command means with a food lure. Holding food up to her nose is basically a lure, and I usually only need to do that a few times before switching to giving the food reward after the fact, and then phasing it out entirely because by then, they're responding to the command right away.



There is actually a very easy way to train her to give up stuff voluntarily. From the time I get a new puppy I do trading games as part of our foundation work. I use their toys, nylabones, whatever. Give up THAT, and I'll give you THIS in return. Again, I'll start with food, so they get a food reward AND another toy or bone, or the original toy or bone back again. Encourage her to bring you a toy for a treat and then give her the toy back again. The more you can work on this (I'd suggest a few minutes every day or even a couple of times a day) with as many different items as possible, you more she'll learn to trust you and not feel the need to guard purloined objects.

This absolutely will transfer over to items that she's not supposed to have and that you need to get away from her, and while there will still be times when you may have to pry her jaws open to get something out of her mouth, she should be playing the keep away game less and less. Remember that at her age she doesn't yet know the difference between everything that's hers and everything that's not, so she won't necessarily know that the shoe she found on the floor is something you're going to take away and not give back.

Halo actually turned this into a game I call "can I have that?" In addition to the "give" command, which is non-negotiable, she brings me stuff and I ask her if I can have it. She gives it up, I tell her how wonderful she is, and then I give it back. This is something she started doing on her own. Not only does she not guard bones from me, she will bring them to me to hold for her while she chews them. I made a short video of our game a while back - she had already brought it to me and I took it away from her at least once before grabbing the video camera:

Can I have that? - YouTube
Good video examples, thanks!
She's a little possessive, the first few times I trained "leave" with food, she would nip and bark at me and then bark at the food cause she wasn't getting what she wanted. She also sometimes squirms out of my hands when I remove her from the xpen.
I play with the flirt pole and she will chase it until probably forever.. until I get tired of waving it around haha. But when she chases the toy, I'll use the same training concept as tug and say "Let go" and when she does, I mark with YES and lots of praise. I'm sure she understands but probably not fully and if she does understand, she doesn't have the impulse control yet to "give things up". Her understanding of ownership is not there including space, manners things like that. and when she chases a ball or the animal on the flirt pole, she will capture it, just shake her head side to side "killing it" and walk away from me to start chewing her kill. She doesn't retrieve, which is important so I want to start incorporating that.

I agree that the idea is she comes back so she can continue to play. So far if I let her "win" and give her the kill in tug or the flirt pole, she walks away.
I'll be doing those "Swapping" exercises and see how she responds. She's a pretty faster learner but I'm starting to realize the commands like "off", the biting when I try to remove things from her mouth, the barking when learning "leave it" she's a little possessive right now.

Do you think that is any indication of what she would be like as an adult? Or are all puppies generally like that? I haven't had enough puppy raising experience with various types of pups to know but maybe someone who raised a lot or is a breeder can chime in on what they think.


I watched like 15 michael ellis videos yesterday but the problem is, I know he knows what he's talking about and he's very good at it, it's just he's more catered towards protection training and Schutzhund and less pet dog. In his videos, he will rarely (I think once) say "this will also work with pet dog owners" meaning a lot of his stuff aren't really applicable to pet dog owners that don't want to foster such high confidence and drive. High confidence and drive is only good if you are actually going into protection training or something and have that continual outlet for the dog to express the aggression and/or training. But if I were to do the training Michael Ellis suggests for protection trainers, I feel I would be fostering an energy level that isn't necessarily suitable for the home. Things like back pressure when tugging or bite work, barking, Ellis has a huge focus on building drive and energy, and almost everything is centered around getting the dog excited (but controlled) whereas a lot of pet owners and pet dog trainers discourage high energy but more calmness, obedience type training. High energy excitement is great if you have the energy to match and can provide the correct outlet and as of yet I'm not looking into Schutzhund for my dog. Maybe if she's a bit older, I can change gears and look into fostering that but as a puppy, I would like a foundation of calmness, obedience, impulse control, submissiveness, etc. and then once that's built, we can go all out with high energy drive stuff.

With my other dog, I would have absolutely no problem building any kind of drive or playing tug roughly and letting her win every time because she's so naturally submissive and calm. With this pup, kind of need to go the other direction at least until she gets a little bit older.
 

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Good video examples, thanks!
She's a little possessive, the first few times I trained "leave" with food, she would nip and bark at me and then bark at the food cause she wasn't getting what she wanted. She also sometimes squirms out of my hands when I remove her from the xpen.
I play with the flirt pole and she will chase it until probably forever.. until I get tired of waving it around haha. But when she chases the toy, I'll use the same training concept as tug and say "Let go" and when she does, I mark with YES and lots of praise. I'm sure she understands but probably not fully and if she does understand, she doesn't have the impulse control yet to "give things up". Her understanding of ownership is not there including space, manners things like that. and when she chases a ball or the animal on the flirt pole, she will capture it, just shake her head side to side "killing it" and walk away from me to start chewing her kill. She doesn't retrieve, which is important so I want to start incorporating that.

I agree that the idea is she comes back so she can continue to play. So far if I let her "win" and give her the kill in tug or the flirt pole, she walks away.
I'll be doing those "Swapping" exercises and see how she responds. She's a pretty faster learner but I'm starting to realize the commands like "off", the biting when I try to remove things from her mouth, the barking when learning "leave it" she's a little possessive right now.

Do you think that is any indication of what she would be like as an adult? Or are all puppies generally like that? I haven't had enough puppy raising experience with various types of pups to know but maybe someone who raised a lot or is a breeder can chime in on what they think.


I watched like 15 michael ellis videos yesterday but the problem is, I know he knows what he's talking about and he's very good at it, it's just he's more catered towards protection training and Schutzhund and less pet dog. In his videos, he will rarely (I think once) say "this will also work with pet dog owners" meaning a lot of his stuff aren't really applicable to pet dog owners that don't want to foster such high confidence and drive. High confidence and drive is only good if you are actually going into protection training or something and have that continual outlet for the dog to express the aggression and/or training. But if I were to do the training Michael Ellis suggests for protection trainers, I feel I would be fostering an energy level that isn't necessarily suitable for the home. Things like back pressure when tugging or bite work, barking, Ellis has a huge focus on building drive and energy, and almost everything is centered around getting the dog excited (but controlled) whereas a lot of pet owners and pet dog trainers discourage high energy but more calmness, obedience type training. High energy excitement is great if you have the energy to match and can provide the correct outlet and as of yet I'm not looking into Schutzhund for my dog. Maybe if she's a bit older, I can change gears and look into fostering that but as a puppy, I would like a foundation of calmness, obedience, impulse control, submissiveness, etc. and then once that's built, we can go all out with high energy drive stuff.

With my other dog, I would have absolutely no problem building any kind of drive or playing tug roughly and letting her win every time because she's so naturally submissive and calm. With this pup, kind of need to go the other direction at least until she gets a little bit older.
When you let her "win" don't let her just wander off and have her way with the object. The game is about playing with YOU, encourage her to bring it back so that you can play more. High energy and excitement during play is excatly what you want so that she is content to be calm, easy going in the house. That's the whole point of having an outlet. Having watched the Ellis tug video (4 times:)) there is nothing in there about bite work, it is all about the game of tug. Biting the tug with a good grip and enthusiasm is part of the tug game and has nothing to do with bite work. Tug is used as a reward system for desireable behaviors, I no longer do bite work with either of my dogs but still use tug as a reward and just for a fun game and outlet. I have a dog that needs to be "toned down" as well, I don't think that a proper well regimented game of tug encourages naughty behavior. The opposite is true, it teaches impulse control in a state of drive which is super important for dogs that have drive and like to bite stuff. Outing when told, not rebiting til I say so and bringing things back to me for interatcion are all very valueable lessons for any dog to learn. This is what the game of tug is about, fun with control.
 

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This is a fantastic game for teaching impulse control around food:


Halo ate quite a bit of her lunch kibble this way, for months. Here she is in her second week of puppy class at 14 weeks old - she's off leash, watching me with a treat on the floor in front of her:



It's basically a default leave it, with eye contact. No commands are given - the dog learns that making the right choice earns the reward. You can do the same thing with toys. Ignore that and look at me, and you get to have it!
 
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