Tug Play with Your Dog

Below are common questions and comments stated by clients new to dog training and using play as a reward.

1. "I heard that playing tug with my dog will make them aggressive, is that true?"

The answer is no. Playing tug games with clear boundaries about where to target the toy, and when to let go provides an excellent energy outlet, and typically has nothing to do with aggression towards dogs or people. ***However, dogs with severe resource guarding issues may not be good candidates for tug games, as most dogs find toys highly valuable resources.

2. "I was told that I need to 'be the boss' of my dog and always win the tug game, otherwise my dog won't respect me."

In order to use tug play as a reward for a given behavior, your dog must feel like he has a shot at winning. Playing tug should be just that; PLAY. Being stomped by the home team (every time) is no fun at all. Playing tug and letting the dog win; thrash it out of your hands, or run with the toy (momentarily), creates the motivation to want more. It's not a 'reward' if the dog feels conflict while playing with the handler.

If you are short on time and/or space,  need to exercise your dog, develop an obedience reward that works the mind and body, and get a little exercise yourself, TUG is for you! (and your pup)

Picking the right Tug Toy

Toys should be sturdy, so you can use them repeatedly. They shouldn't be so big that they are hard to handle, or so small that your dog accidentally bites your hands. They should be easy to grip (for both the dog and handler), and easy to compress. Most of the toys you will find at the big box stores don't stand the test of time, are too clunky, too hard, or they have parts that can chip, fall off, break teeth, or become swallowed by your dog. The best tugs are made of rubber, fleece, firehose material, jute, or linen. While these materials are sturdy, they are not indestructible. Never leave the toys with your dog, unattended.

Dog Dynamix carries firehose and linen tugs for sale, or you can purchase them online. 

Leerburg.com has a great selection, as does K9 tactical.

 

 

Food Rewards - What should you use for training?

Food selection is a very important part of the reward-based training process. All food is not equal. You can train your dog in less time, with longer lasting results if you choose the right reward for a job well done.

The first concept each trainer needs to understand is that the food you are using needs to be rewarding TO THE DOG. It sounds so obvious, but I have seen countless new trainers use their dog’s kibble, or buy some super-fancy-dehydrated-omega-something-or-other, that their dogs just didn’t like. You are not incentivizing your dog to work with you if they don’t want what you have. With a huge variety of options at the pet stores, it’s easy to go for really expensive, thinking you’re getting ‘the best’ treats. Or, you might go cheap, thinking you’ll save a dime. But neither are necessarily true. Be sure that what ever you’re using is of high value to your dog.

Food should be soft and easy to swallow. Nothing halts a good training flow like the crunch, crunch, crunch of a big biscuit. Your goal is repetition of the right behavior. It’s hard to get reps in when the dog spends a lot of time chewing.

Food should be easy to handle to avoid dropping it on the ground. Dropping food on the ground encourages your dog to break their attention from you to search for hidden treats in the grass. That can be quite counterproductive. Tiny treats, or treats that shred and crumble are not good choices.

Maybe your dog isn’t very in to what you have that training session. What do you do? Don’t switch training rewards mid session. Instead, do your best to end on a successful repetition of the command or behavior you’re working on and end the session. Make a mental note, that next time, you will need to up the value of the reward for that particular circumstance or environment and try again later. If you switch, your dog can learn to ‘hold out’ on you, and wait to perform until you have just the right thing. 

Use a variety of rewards. Try to find five or six different rewards that your dog goes bananas for…..but not in the same training session. Diversity and interest is key, but each type of food has a value rating to your dog. They will like one type of food over another, if used in the same session, and feel disappointed (instead of rewarded) when they get the less desirable treat. Switching the food out each session can also reduce irritation to the digestive system.

Foods that are nutritionally balanced are ideal for dog training. Many of the products you find at the pet stores are full of sugar, artificial ingredients, dyes and chemicals. There are healthy, tasty options out there if you know what to look for. Our favorite food rewards are high in value and easy on the budget. Give these a try:

RedBarn meat rolls

Natural Balance meat rolls

Fresh Pet Select Vitals

Hotdogs (yes, good old fashioned hot dogs)

Cut up cheese

Happy Howies rolls

Looking for a budget option, or does your dog have dietary restrictions? Follow our Dog Dynamix Board on Pinterest for delicious home made dog treat recipes.

Dog Training Best Practices

We have compiled a list of 'Dog Owner Commandments' to help our clients have the most happy, well-adjusted, and behaved dogs around. Follow these guidelines, and you are sure to have a Dynamic Dog. We'll forgo the 'thou shalts,' and get straight to the point.

1. Never give a command you cannot or will not enforce. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

2. Freedoms should be earned and not gifted. Freedom to be off-leash, and freedom to be loose in the house are all contingent upon having solid obedience and reliability. If you have those goals for your dog, help them earn those freedoms through management and training.

3. You are always 'training your dog' whether you are making a conscious effort to do so or not. You are either training behaviors you like, or behaviors you don't like. Be sure to think about how your actions may be affecting your dog's behavior.

4. Your puppy is learning to be an adult dog. What ever they practice is what they will become. Keep this in mind when you are deciding the house rules.

5. Dogs needs physical and mental exercise. Make sure you're using a balanced approach for total wellness.

6. The pet industry sells products for money, not results. Gimmicks like calming aids, 'special' harnesses, leashes and collars, and various other products are no substitute for a good training plan. Some products may even exacerbate behavior problems instead of curing them.

7. All healthy relationships have love and respect in common. Your dog can adore you and not respect you. Harmonize your relationship by ensuring both parties are invested. Make sure you're giving your dog what they need, and not just what they want.

8. Your dog needs rules and routine, exercise, and affection, in that order. 

9. Crate training is an essential protocol, even for dogs that will eventually have free roaming privileges. The last place your dog wants to learn about confinement is his first day of boarding in a new place, or worse yet, at the vet when she is sick or injured.

10. Spend time with your dog everyday; Quality, dedicated, invested time. Your dog needs 20 minutes (minimum) of your undivided attention, daily. Choose one activity to do with your dog (play frisbee, run, walk, hike, swim, agility, nosework, teaching tricks, obedience training etc) every day.  If you lose a thing, you can replace it. If you lose money, you can make more. Time you can never get back. It is the only true commodity. Never waste a moment with your dog.