While there is nothing more rewarding than a dog with good obedience, many owners are overlooking the importance of playing with their dog. Personally, I like to surprise my dog with a hidden favorite toy tucked in my vest and at the least expected time, just when our training might become monotonous, I whip out the toy for a quick game of tug of war. Seeing the look on Buck’s face when he realizes that mom is willing to play is worth a week of perfect sit-stays.
If you are like many of our dog parents, your dog has dozens of toys, many of which are ignored and overlooked or gathering dust under the sofa. Try getting all of the toys together, make sure that everything is clean and in good order then put the toys away for several days. After a week or so, find a quiet spot and select 3 toys at a time to throw out. Make notes what toys are favored. I categorize my toys as “A” “B” & “C” in order of importance. The “A”, highest importance toys that I can easily tuck in a pocket or vest are put away as special treats for accomplishments or just for special mom and Buck play time. The other toys are classified and brought out in rotation.
And for those of you who have heard the notion that tug of war can create aggression. Not so. Just remember that as “pack leader” you control the beginning and end of the game. But I always tell clients to sometimes let the dog win. Because isn’t winning sometimes more fun? You also can train an out or release easily through tug of war. Simply press the toy or tug against your leg saying “out” or “release” as you pull the toy tight. The end result will be that the dog releases. As soon as he releases reward him by giving him the toy again to tug. This makes letting go, far more fun when your dog knows that much of the time, the game continues.
-Debbie, Dog Knowledge Trainer
“Some trainers (e.g., Kilcommons, 1992) have suggested that owners should not engage in tug-of-war games with their dog because it may provoke “dominance” aggression problems. However, Rooney and Bradshaw (2003), in attempting to determine if certain kinds of play lead to higher “dominance” in dogs, found that dogs who engaged in rough-and- tumble play with owners scored higher on amenability scales and had fewer problems with separation distress. They also found that dogs who engaged in tug-of-war games scored higher on confident interactivity. These findings, although correlational rather than experimental (demonstrating causation), tend to refute the suggestion that tug-of-war games contribute significantly to dominance problems in dogs. Goodloe and Borchelt (1998) found, contrary to Kilcommons, that rough play generally, and tug-of-war games specifically, do not relate to aggression towards owners. The relationship between tug-of- war and dominance aggression appears to be a myth.” – O’Heare, J. (2007). Aggressive Behavior in Dogs, p. 332. Ottawa: DogPsych Publishing.