Rules of Tug
Tug can be a great game to play with your dog – as long as you have rules. There are some that believe that tug is not a good game to play for a variety of reasons. I find that if you have rules associated with the game, it is a good way to exercise your dog and also teach him to respond while he is in a high stimulation situation.
The rules I recommend are:
1. Any teeth on skin automatically ends the game. People will often think that the dog didn’t “mean” it and that it’s ok as a result. Your dog can learn this rule and learn to be careful with his teeth.
2. Drop on command. This is very important! You need to be in control of the game and able to stop it whenever you want to.
3. Only start the game on command. You want your dog to only grab the tug toy when you tell him it’s ok (“take it” or something similar). This will prevent a dog that leaps and grabs for the toy and will also prevent problems if a small child picks up the tug toy.
4. Take frequent breaks to practice obedience. We want your dog to learn to respond to you even when he is very into the game of tug. Frequently stop the game and ask your dog to do a command he knows such as sit. His reward for responding is that the game restarts. For example: tug, tug, tug, drop it, sit, tug, tug, tug, drop it, sit, down, tug, tug, tug. If a dog is too excited to respond to commands, then he is too excited to be playing tug.
There are some additional rules that you can consider implementing. These include only playing tug with a specific toy. In this case tug would not be allowed with any random toy, just the designated tug toy. You also might want to consider keeping the tug toy put away and only bring it out when you plan to play tug.
REMEMBER: Tug can be a great game as long as you remain in control of the game. You need to be able to start and stop the game at will and also your dog needs to be able to respond to commands to you throughout the game.