A good game of tug can be a great reward for toy driven dogs. Shepherds, working breeds, and terriers typically love tugging, but I’ve even had a shih tzu that enjoyed tug rewards.
One of the most common issues that I see with clients who use tugs as a reward is that their dog has bad compression. What this means is that the dog doesn’t bite down very hard on the tug toy. The toy may slip out of the dog’s mouth, they may munch on it, or they may only hold the toy with their very front teeth.
Using a leather tug or bite pillow encourages your dog to bite down harder.
If a dog bites incorrectly on a linen or jute tug, they can often still hang on because their teeth get hooked in the material. This prevents them from learning how to bite correctly. One of the best ways that I have found to avoid this is to use a toy with leather material.
In particular, I like the leather bite pillow that For Dog Trainers sells. I’ve used it with several of my personal dogs as well as working dog clients, and it really encourages a harder, fuller bite on the toy.
If the dog doesn’t bite down hard enough, the toy will slip out of their mouth. This builds frustration, and they learn that they have to bite more fully in order to keep their prize.
You can also play with your dog while an assistant handler holds them back on a harness. Back pressure also builds frustration and motivation to get the toy, and it makes it easier for you to keep tension on the toy at all times. If you have never done harness work like this, check out davekroyer.com for video on how to be a “post”. This is a very important skill to learn for this type of work.
To reiterate, this isn’t formal protection work, just you playing tug with your dog. Another toy that you can utilize to work on this is a leather bite rag. This is a great option for dogs who love to chase things, as you can put the rag onto a flirt pole or line. Making movement with the rag encourages the same drive and frustration as the back pressure would.
Rag available here.
Here is an example of a Frenchie who needed an outlet for his energy. He loved playing tug and biting the leather rag, and it was a great way for his owner to exercise him.
These are just a few of the ways to improve your dog’s tug game.
If you have any questions about these toys and how to use them, contact us or find a training club in your area.