A fun part of getting to know a new puppy is discovering his preferences. If we pay attention we can learn what kind of treats he loves and which toys and games are his favorites.
In my experience there are few pups that don’t enjoy a great game of tug.
Unfortunately this game has a bad reputation. I’m saying it… Playing tug is not going to teach your puppy bad habits and make him aggressive! On the contrary! When you teach the game with some simple rules and plenty of structure your puppy learns impulse control, great manners and he gets his puppy ya-ya’s out.
The rules are simple, the puppy needs to learn to;
1. Take the toy only when given the verbal cue to ‘take it’.
2. Give the toy when asked to ‘give’.
3. Sit immediately following the give.
In the beginning stage of teaching a puppy how to play tug, work to perfect the give and sit portion of the game. Lots of ‘take it’ with a short stint of tug followed by a trade for a tasty treat and luring the ‘sit’. Be sure when you make the trade, that you use something enticing enough to get the puppy to give up the toy. This might take some experimenting with different treats. Put it right up to his nose so he can smell it, say give, he will let go of the toy, then lure the sit and let him have the treat. Repeat.
Short film clip: How to play Tug with your puppy
The ‘sit’ following the ‘give’ is an important component of teaching ‘tug’. If you are consistent it will quickly turn into an‘automatic safety-sit’. A sitting dog is not jumping up to grab a toy. He is politely waiting for the cue to ‘take it’.
Practice lots of ‘leave it, take it’ separately.
Play low, keep the toy low and let the puppy do the pulling on the toy. Avoid lifting the puppy up with the toy.
Use a long soft toy that puts some distance between your hand and the pup’s mouth.
If the puppy isn’t letting go of the toy, the trade treat isn’t enticing enough. Switch to something more ‘high value’ to the puppy.
Less talk, more play. Practice makes perfect. Ready, set, go!