Are you experiencing the Winter Doldrums? Cabin Fever? Pandemic overload?
Depending on your current climate, you might be stuck indoors way more than you’d like. And your dog may be feeling the same. So how can you break that cycle of boredom? Why with a strenuous game of TUG! Tug O’ War can be a fun and healthy way to reduce stress, increase exercise and relieve some pent-up energy for you AND your dog! Most dogs will jump (literally)at the chance to play, and in many ways will thank you for it!
Your dog will learn when and where appropriate roughhousing can take place. Games like this will strengthen the bond between you and your dog. It will help him learn his rank in the hierarchy of the home. YOU call the shots. The Tug-Toy is yours! When you bring out this toy (yes, I suggest putting it away between games!) his eyes will light up, and he will be ready! It will give you an opportunity to teach “Wait” when you want him to sit and be ready for it. Seeing the Tug-Toy come out can be used for reinforcement as well. Agility trainers have long used tug toys to pump up their dog’s enthusiasm!
Also allowing appropriate “mouthing” of the toy can redirect undesirable biting of hands, shoes, and other tempting items. It assists in teaching self-control. Before you begin, your dog needs to be in a sit position. If he jumps out of position, the tug toy goes behind your back, and he’ll soon learn to control that impulse. As you continue to have games of Tug planned within a day, your dog will build confidence and look forward to the game.
With that in mind, there are some simple rules to follow before, during, and after the game!
- Make sure your Tug Toy is long enough to keep your dog’s mouth away from your hands when he bites, and that you have a good grip on it.
- As mentioned before, put the toy away after use! When it comes out, it should be a signal to your dog that something fun is about to happen.
- When he shows he is ready (in the sit position) say “Take it!” and of course, use your most excited voice. Some dogs will need a little coaxing. Perhaps put a lick of peanut butter on the end for him to get the idea.
- Tug only SIDE to Side, as an up and down motion can cause injury to a dog’s spine. Also, keep your dog’s age and size in mind. Larger dogs can play harder than puppies.
- After pulling for a bit, pause and ask him to “Give”. Have a small treat like Turkey& Berry Chews on hand to encourage him to release. Pause and then begin the playtime again! Give verbal reinforcement when the game is being played well! Good Boy! Good Girl!- in your most enthusiastic voice.
- If your dog forgets some of the rules, like lunging at the toy or your hand, say, “OOPS”, and put the toy behind you -out of sight for about 10-15 seconds. Then begin again with him in a sit position.
- If your dog actually bites skin, stop and put the toy away for a while. No need for any further reprimand!
When you have chosen the game to be over, and you have played hard with your dog, it’s time for some well-deserved verbal reinforcement! Loving them up with a belly rub, allowing them a “jump for joy”, just as long as you are still in control. Now it’s time for a drink of water or a special treat. And then a NAP!
Having games to play with your dog will build a strong relationship during these long winter months. The physical movement and excitement of the Tug O’War Game will give both you and your dog an endorphin- boost, making the best of those Winter Doldrums!