The Duration of The Tug Sessions

Posted on 01/04/12 115 Comments

Tugging is a big part of my dog training, I hope it is also a big part of yours. It is a great reinforcer for most dogs. For those dogs that are not currently big fans of tugging, it is a skill that be cultivated with work on your part . . . yes I know it sometimes seems like a LOT of work. 

Lately, I have been observing young dogs tugging in different environments. I don’t want to talk about the mechanics of the activity itself (although I have a lot to say about that:)) but I would like to focus on the results I have observed that tugging is producing. Now these are generalizations I am about to share, but the number of dogs that have presented with the same responses, to me, make the results pretty darn compelling.

First here is what I noticed. A young dog tugging with his owner in a distraction filled environment, lets say it is at an agility trial with lots of commotion and dogs running everywhere. What do you suppose this dog does when the tugging stops? That is what I have been observing and what got me thinking of why? With many dogs, the moment the tug comes out of the dog’s mouth the dog spins around to focus on the “other activity.”  The distractions, the motion that immediately catches their eye.

Then I started to think of my own young dog “Swagger” (who is approaching his first birthday later this month). When I take the tug away from Swagger in any environment, he grows in intensity for me, his focus narrows on my movements. This is not unlike any other dog I have trained; so it can’t just be “the dog” (although I do think Swagger is pretty special:)). It has to be something I have done or not done as I have raised my dogs that has created this focus.

Here is what I think it is, and I believe this could make a MASSIVE  difference to everyone with young dogs or dogs that are struggling to give you their full focus at work. The difference I see lies in the . . .

The duration of the tug session.

Many people when they tug with their dogs, do it as a duration behaviour. It goes on forever. It is mindless. The tug toy is a “baby sitter” as they chat with their friends. If there is a potential distraction near by, then tug game becomes a game-on-the-run where the dog is attached to the toy which is attached to the owner for the entire time it takes to get passed the distraction. It is a duration activity. It can last seemingly forever (at least 30 sec – 1 minute) but certainly much longer than I tug with my dogs.

With these dogs the history of using tug as a reward is one where the dog is engaged for an extended period of time. By the time this tug game ends the trainer is often exhausted and the dog so over aroused he has difficulty thinking straight. He is all revved up when you are pooped out!

By way of contrast when I reward a dog with a tug, it is a very short session. The reward process itself may take the same length of time as any of the “extended tugging sessions” but with one major difference. My reward process would be filled with multiple sessions of quick tugging spaced out with me asking the dog to something in between each tug session. This would be especially true if I was trying to get through a distracted environment with the dog.

The tugging itself would be anywhere from 3-10 seconds, maybe less. I let it go on for as long as it takes to get sustained, sincere, fun, tugging— no re-gripping, no looking else where. When I get that, I end it. BUT the moment I end the game of tug I immediately engage my dog in the next phase by asking him to do something else, like a hand touch which starts another game of tug. Or a game of PB&J (“Push Back & Jam” where I take off on my dog and when he catches me we start another short lived game of tug). Maybe I will then do a 360 degree spin into another game of tug or just ask for a quick sit, down or stand, move away a couple of feet, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, release my dog, run & tug again.

Short tug session, quick cued response followed by another tug session. This pattern is mixed up just about any time I reward my dog. Sure some times it is a quick tug and back to our regular training and occasionally I may even do the odd “duration tug” but that is rare.

So, from a dog training point of view, why does tugging in each of these two ways result in such a different behaviours in the dog? Why do most of the “duration tug dogs” focus on their environment when the tug game stops and the quick tug session mixed with other responses create focus for the handler?

Let me know your thoughts and I will share mine later. Fascinating stuff I think.

Today I am grateful for all of the dogs who happily reveal what they have learned from us with anyone who is willing to take the time to observe them. Gotta love dogs!

115 Comments

  1. Noomi says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 3:22am

    Thank you for this, I’m working on my young dogs tugging drive and I will definitly think more about how long I ask her to hang in the toy!

    But I have a question. How do you stop tugging? When you want to end the session, what and how do you do? Just take the toy and put it away?

    Reply

    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 9:40am

      @Noomi, with my dogs I ask for an “out” when I want the toy back. If it was a dog I was building drive with I wouldn’t ask for the “out” but rather “fight the dog” for the toy as demonstrated in my video “Building Drive By Being A “Bad” Dog Trainer”

      http://youtu.be/yzqs54qMgQA

      Reply

      • amy says:
        Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 5:44pm

        What if you have a dog that’s a good tugger but very possessive so that you have to fight them for every “out”? What’s the best way to teach the out so they let go quickly and voluntarily? Should you reward with food when they let go?

    • Sinead says:
      Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 11:04am

      Thanks for that, AS I have a puppy and we are working on tug drive.
      great info there as this is where I was getting stuck at, trying to bulid in to a reward.
      will check out that video too “Building Drive By Being A “Bad” Dog Trainer”

      Reply

  2. Ali says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 9:06am

    Short sessions leave the dog wanting more, where as long sessions leave the dog wanting something else.

    Reply

  3. Valerie says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 9:38am

    this is brilliant, amazing the difference little adjustments can make.
    thank you.

    Reply

  4. DANI says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 9:41am

    I couldn’t agree more. :-) My young boy who is 11 months does just that. Short sessions and he looks at me now for the next game, but he didnt always, it took work and focus on my part :-) Interesting stuff as always Susan x

    Reply

  5. Amy Mayer says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 9:43am

    Your way not only is the dog focused on you, but you are focused on the dog, I think this is key.

    Reply

  6. Christine says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 9:43am

    This was one of my key take aways from my visits to Say Yes (although there seems to be so many!!) I found that the quick, fast and fun tug to game transitions always left my dogs wanting more it helped build focus and intensity and helped me as a handler to be quicker and more intune with my dogs.

    Reply

  7. Terri says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 9:45am

    Excellent! I have a 4 year old who does lose focus and is very easily distracted. I am holding tug sessions for too long of a period. Can’t wait to get home from work and try out the new formula for success.

    Reply

  8. Judith says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 9:45am

    Tugging past a distraction- Guilty! Time to do a rethink. Thanks Susan!

    Reply

  9. E Gay says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 9:52am

    Transfer of value. You have transferred the value of tugging into you (be the tug toy!). By always having long duration sessions and then allowing interaction with the environment upon release from the toy, the value stays with the toy. Your short bursts *with the interaction with you in between* transfers the value of the tug into the interaction with you. Also you are maintaining intensity by keeping it short and that’s another way you’ve raised the value of both the toy and yourself.

    Reply

    • sheyla says:
      Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:49am

      Can’t really say it any better than how EGay stated it, but I would add that extended tugging builds arousal and might take your dog to a level of arousal that would take them too long to come down off and hence concentgrate. The short bursts also teach him to switch easier from arousal to attention/focus by keeping it at a level thagt the dog can still manage. AWESOME stuff!

      Reply

  10. Linda says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 9:55am

    Interesting, my 15 month old does redirect on movement around us if I am not tugging or asking for an activity. Time to step back and see if I am not keeping things interesting enough for him.

    Reply

  11. Lisa says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:02am

    Just when I had this situation arise Susan has this post awesome advice as usual thanks!

    Reply

  12. Anita says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:05am

    Thank you for this post!
    My 6 month old australian shepherd girl, look that she like tugging, but when I start tugg and let her win (let go toy) she start to be focused on environment immediately or go to chew toy (like we`ve never started some game!) It is frustrating and suprising, beacuse she looks that she want to play, but after, she don`t care.
    I was thinking that I`m not playing too much, but you realised me that yes – it can be! I play with her about one- two times a day but it takes about a one minute… and before I let her win it take about 5-10 sec… I really can be too much for my a bit low maturing puppy. I will try really shorter sessions with some tricks :) Maybe will help!

    Reply

  13. Tina says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:15am

    My dog does Tug, but it’s harder for me to get the game going if we are in a more distracting environment. Once I get him tugging, I keep it short (but not as short as Susans) and then I get a glazed over look.

    When we are away from the equipment, I will ask for behaviors, and then tug again. But I think I’ve gotten into a bad habit at classes when Im trying not to waste class time by getting the tug behavior, asking for the sit then heading to position for the sequence. So I will be interested to try much shorter sessions and break things up in between with different behaviors.

    Reply

  14. Jan says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:26am

    This is timely Susan, as i work through various mechanics of tugging with my different dogs and the reasons behind them. I love the “Gotta love dogs” comment at the end. We sure do gotta love em if we are going to invest this much of our lives into them:)

    Reply

  15. Mary M says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:26am

    Nice post, good reminder for me, don’t think I am adding enough contingencies to the tug and yes I am guilty (esp with Oliver) of tugging as a “babysitter” thanks for the post!

    Reply

  16. Lynne says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:37am

    What I have observed with my new pup is the longer I tug the more it becomes a behavior with the distractions as a reward for tugging. I have discovered that when I make the sessions short with lots of sits, hand touches, downs, etc in between the tugging, the more his focus stays on me and the more he wants to tug.

    Reply

  17. Debra Jones says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:56am

    Guilty….I’ve noticed myself lacking in my tugging sessions. Snap loves to tug, I don’t want her to lose that love…thanks for ‘softly’ smacking me… LOL

    Reply

  18. Jodi Altman says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 11:05am

    The continuous tugging dog only gets gets only one reward but the dog who does many behaviours between short tugging games gets many more opportunities for rewards.

    I have learnt many lessons from you over the years but the “holy” lesson is “dogs do what is re-inforcing” and the more opportunities they see for rewards, the more engaged they become.

    I have also observed that the dog who does behaviours between tugging has has the ability to be very aroused but remains a thinking aroused dog (which is ideal for agility IMO) but a continuous tugging dog is an aroused dog, period.

    So happy to read a new blog from you, always great dog training wisdom revealed.

    Reply

  19. Pat Borchardt says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 11:13am

    I just read you article on tug sessions.
    I noticed yesterday at my agility training session, that before we were do our run, I was tugging with my ECS with her lead as a tug rope, and she really got excited by that play time…..(two minutes the most)then when we did our run, she was her best ever, my instructor told me..she didn’t snif, which is a major concern, and she focused full well on what I asked her to do; she even started barking through her weaves, which was something totally new….the tugging, now that I read your article, showed me that the little play tug time before our run, got her excited enough to provide ME with her focusing on the training…..and liking it much more……sometimes we have to watch what we do with our dogs and the littest thing can change our out come of what we want from them……..in this case a better run with more focus….and her being excited!!!Thanks bunches!!!!!

    Reply

  20. Shannon says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 11:18am

    I was wondering how you completely end the session? Put the tug toy away and walk away abruptly? Or do you have a cue that ends play altogether?

    Reply

  21. Helen Verte says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 11:35am

    My guess is your short sessions with intermediary focus exercises keep the dog in the middle of the arousal curve where he is balanced, and most productive with attention and energy. Tugging sessions that go on too long, on the other hand, increase the dog’s arousal to the right side of the arousal curve where he is over-stimulated, on an adrenalin high and on that fight or flight path that side of the curve offers.

    Reply

  22. Sue says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 11:40am

    Another Ah ha moment. My dog loves to tug but I need to rearrange my participation and make “me” more interesting. Particularly in distracting environments.
    Once again, thank you Susan for your insight.

    Reply

  23. Lori Kline says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 11:57am

    Fabulous post! It’s interesting because I think I have unconsciously done this with my dogs while working on some agility stuff. I get impatient with the tugging so only ask for a few seconds, then release and start running with them. They are so much more engaged this way.

    Now, to transfer that same idea into the waiting area and warm up areas. Thanks!

    Reply

  24. Bob Deeds says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 12:17pm

    Susan.

    Nice blog. I think the biggest reason why tugging is such a great tool is it bridges play between handler and dog…It builds relationship. I’d love to see more of your technique, as I feel we may have some differences that I would like to explore. I do like rebites (regrip), to a degree. I’ll often let the toy die and a rebite is the dogs signal to keep going. If I have a dog that has confrontation problems, I can also use this as a way to let the dog win. It kind of depends on the dog. My rule for duration. Leave them wanting more! Your value as a handler, a “partner”, goes up. I think working dog success requires proper focus that is a natural result of proper tug. Again, nice blog!

    Reply

  25. Andrea says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 12:52pm

    I learned this from the other end of the spectrum (though it has served me well with high dogs too)

    Getting Brody to play at all was a challenge in our early relationship – tugging was no where on his agenda – by having very short sessions I could build his interest in the game and in life … we don’t tug too often now with him – but even when he wants to we keep it short and sweet

    My grand dad taught me many years ago “always leave them wanting more” .. (in reference to conversations with other people). That bit of wisdom has stood me well in living with animals too :)

    Reply

  26. Connie Macchione says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 12:54pm

    Great post Susan. Someone (one of the veterans) mentioned this on Recallers a month or so ago, that tugging is not a duration behavior. That had not occurred to me before so I began shortening our tug sessions, but not necessarily asking for another behavior. Then, when we started playing Tug-Sit-Take Off I saw a much more intense focus on me. Another pearl of wisdom!

    Reply

  27. Susie says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:11pm

    Brilliant article. Is the reason that the dog disengages when the tugging stops because the value is with the tug/environment and not with the person. I think that maybe I’ve made the mistake of trying to use the act of tugging to create the value for me rather than the playing of the game to create the value?

    Reply

  28. Linda Christensen says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:15pm

    i do believe this is true and a great observation. I will start this immediately and see how it goes with my Toller. Thanks so much.

    Reply

  29. Susan says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:17pm

    Great post! I think duration tugging is sometimes a management tool. I know, I am guilty of this – tugging with my dog as a way of maintaining control, rather than as reward. There. Said it. Also, on Puppy Peaks you were asked about overenthusiastic, danger to the handler type tuggers and what to do. I think duration tugging and management tugging can contribute to or even create this problem. My older dog is a bit of a bull in a China Shop personality and has always done dislocation tugging (as in my shoulder, almost.) I’ve noticed however, that my gentle polite tugging younger dog is starting to do the same thing. If you duration tug they have to up the ante to continue to enjoy it right? That’s when they start the yanking. She’s also over aroused often when tugging because I haven’t taught her properly to actually handle distractions. I suspect I’m not alone!

    Reply

  30. Vicki says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:25pm

    Thanks for this Susan, this was a huge eye opener for me when you discussed it at puppy camp… already seeing a huge improvement with Jib around distractions and this was definately the ke yto our success!!

    Many thanks!!
    Vicki and Jib!

    Reply

    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:26pm

      @Vicki awesome news! Hugs to Jib!

      Reply

  31. Annie says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:37pm

    This was such a great read. I dare say this piece of information will be useful to me for the rest of my days! Cannot wait to employ this strategy when working/playing with my dog. Thank you.

    Reply

  32. Laura says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:40pm

    I’m sure the shortened session length figures into it somewhere (like others said, always leave them wanting more), but to me, the big thing is, Swagger has a big reinforcement history of something fun always happening with you after tugging is done. You’ve likely never ignored him after a tugging session, and you are reaping the rewards of that.

    Reply

  33. Judy says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:51pm

    Excellent!! I always thought my dog lacked attention to tugging because I only do it for short periods but then do other stuff like sits, touches for attention and then tug.. in my mindless way I was correct. He has good attention esp for a hunting dog!
    thanks love your stuff

    Reply

  34. Angela says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 2:22pm

    thank you for clarifying duration — when i watch you with your dogs it appears they are tugging longer than they actually are. It is a very hard balance to find for me — I guess part of that is because i lack incorporating tug into my training session plan — For instance, a simple shaping exercise should have the tug inextricably linked into the session. It seems the tug is used as a after thought, especially for those of us who have dogs that are not “into tugging”. But I must persevere to get myself habituated into tugging when training.

    Dog agility classes seem to concentrate on the obstacles or agility patterns rather than the relationship “focus” building…I realized that and bring my own agenda to class now. However, I don’t do this regularly at home.

    Hopefully it will just become second nature to me… according to a recent study in 2009 it can take 66 days or more to form a habit (not the old myth of 18 days)…so I need to readjust my old habits and keep at it :-) Thanks as always Susan for sharing your insights! http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/how-long-to-form-a-habit.php

    Reply

    • Susan says:
      Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 12:39am

      Thanks for the link Angela, interesting stuff!

      Reply

  35. Renee King says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 2:26pm

    Quoting Laura above me “you have never ignored him after a tugging session”.

    It is easy to lump the long duration tugging dogs in one category but…

    IMO, the answer is “that is what the owners have reinforced them to do”. In fact, if the tugging *starts* because the dog was distracted by the environment, then the dog looking at the environment becomes the predictor of a tug session. (We assume the dog enjoys tugging). So when the tug session is over, he looks to the environment again (one could presume to try to earn his tug reward again).

    Reply

  36. Anna says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 2:42pm

    A really interesting post, Thank you.
    I have on and off tried to get my hungarian vizsla to tug but with only a little success. She has never shown interest in toys very very occasionally she will pick up a soft toy but any pressure and she releases.
    I can get her to tug for maybe 1second for a CT but she I think physically hates the feel of stuff other than food in her mouth! After any toy is in her mouth (CT retrieve and short tug) she was spit it out and continue to flick her tongue around her mouth like we might if we had a hair in our mouth – sort of like she wants to spit it out again.

    Any tips? or success stories from other people who have this same type of dog?

    Many thanks

    Reply

  37. Carol Morgan says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 2:46pm

    What a great post!! I used to think I trained in short sessions – but then I got involved with you!! LOL!! Reading this post made me realize that even tho my tugging is pretty short – I use it during our training sessions as a time for ME to think a bit about what’s next. Well, add that to my ongoing list of Things We Need to Change! Looking forward to more on this topic from you.

    Reply

  38. Penny Mead says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 4:07pm

    Susan asked:
    So, from a dog training point of view, why does tugging in each of these two ways result in such a different behaviours in the dog? Why do most of the “duration tug dogs” focus on their environment when the tug game stops and the quick tug session mixed with other responses create focus for the handler?

    I answer:
    Because, with the duration tug dogs, when the game ends the game ends and they disconnect and focus on the environment. Whereas with Susan’s tugging the end of one game predicts the beginning of a new game, so the end of the game actually builds focus on Susan rather than causing a disconnect back to the environment. Actually the same can happen with food too, if dogs are always given one piece of food for one behaviour and there is no further interaction or opportunity for reinforcement they will get their piece of food and immediately disconnect.

    The other difference between the two tugging scenarios is that if the tug is being used as a crutch/lure to get past a distraction, the dog is not actually making a choice to ignore the distraction in order to earn the tug, so once the tug is gone the dog is back focussed on the distraction again. Again, I think there is a similarity with the use of food and whether there is any IYC built into the process.

    Penny

    Reply

    • Laura says:
      Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 4:11pm

      “..if dogs are always given one piece of food for one behaviour and there is no further interaction or opportunity for reinforcement they will get their piece of food and immediately disconnect.”

      Penny, you must have been there (LOL!) – that’s how I taught my first dog to heel! Needless to say, it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped… ;-)

      Great point about no choice being made by those dogs being tugged past distractions. You’re bang on (of course!).

      Reply

    • Barb says:
      Sunday, January 8, 2012 at 10:21am

      Interesting connect back to the same thing happening with food… I know that happened to my 7 yr. old. I think I have improved that with the younger one.

      Reply

  39. Mary says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 4:07pm

    Great post. I love the short tug as a reward, but have used longer tugs as play. I’ll have to relook at that behavior and start to make those play sessions shorter and interspersed with other activities.

    Question – Reading an interview with John Bradshaw he was remarking that his research found letting dogs win when tugging made them eager to tug with a person even more. Have you found that to be the case or do you think it matters if the dog wins or not?

    Reply

  40. Wendy says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 4:44pm

    I think there are multiple things going on here. First, many short duration tug sessions allow for more reinforcement for the dog, much like “shotgunning” treats might create focus. Second, most of the time you stop, you immediately go into another opportunity for them to earn rewards. This creates a pattern for them, leading to focus on you and anticipation of that next firstengagement, which promises to be more exciting than the distraction.

    Thanks for the great ideas!

    Reply

  41. Rita says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 4:58pm

    I think the key difference may be not the duration of the tug session but the handler’s level of engagement with the dog during and after the tug session. As you say, the problem is where the tug session is “mindless” and the “tug toy is a ‘baby sitter’ as they chat with their friends.” I have two “duration tug dogs” (one a Cocker Spaniel and the other a Border Collie) who are very focused at work, are not interested in the distractions of the trial environment and who focus even more intensely on me when the tugging session ends. My tug sessions with my dogs at a trial typically last from 3-5 minutes (maybe even longer) from the time they leave their crates up until a few minutes before we enter the ring. Throughout each tug session I am engaged with my dog, kissing, slapping, patting, singing, talking to them, maintaining eye contact, etc. I never “chat” with others while tugging and only on rare occasions will I acknowledge anyone in the vicinity (other than the gate steward) because I do not want to break the connection with my dog while tugging. We cycle through levels of intensity in each tug session – from full body tugging/whipping the toy around to just pulling on the toy held in their mouths – so that neither of us is completely exhausted or too revved up. When I decide the game is up, we do a few tricks and simple sits and downs for treats to get focused for our task in the ring. Throughout the entire process we are fully engaged with each other – I think that may be why my dogs do not lose focus on me even after our “endless” tug sessions.

    Reply

  42. Silke says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:15pm

    I always worried if I play tug long enough. When I saw the videos of Swagger in Puppy Peaks I thought, Susan is tugging really short with them because her dogs are good tuggers, but now I see they are good tuggers because of the short tugging.
    When I head my first (and only) puppy I read a book which told to play at least twice a day with the puppy and 10 min would be enough. Percy and I never had too much joy while trying to tug for 10 min – or even only 5 min. To me it seemed endless. I forgot about tug (only playing ball and frisbee). Thanks of recallers I tried it again – and wow, what a great training tool it can be when used correctly and the dog has drive for tug. We are still working on that but now we have joy in tugging (at least at home).
    So, thanks so much Susan for giving us back this great tool! Now I will try to make the tug shorter do more of our recaller games inbetween to make it even more fun.

    Reply

  43. denise says:
    Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:18pm

    I think the difference is the engagement of the human. The “duration tug” is just a time filler for the human. A means to distract the dog, or occupy the dog while the human is mentally elsewhere. The short tug session is genuine by the human. It’s engaged and mentally/emotionally involved with the dog. The human is “in the moment”, enjoying the tugging as much as the dog. Can’t expect the dog to be focused on you if you aren’t focused on the dog.

    Reply

  44. Julia Lane says:
    Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 6:07pm

    Wow, what a timely & thought-provoking post. Thank you, Susan! Right now, I’m doing Puppy Peaks with my 11-week-old BC puppy, Magnum, and am having fun teaching him Tug Sit Tug or Tug Bed Tug, etc = no duration tugging. I’m also doing Recallers with my high drive, anxiety ridden rescue Dutch Shepherd, Ginger Peach, for the third time & it’s clicking for both of us how tug is not the means to the end, but rather the the start of doing something fun together. Both examples above are totally different from how I used tug with my now retired, rescue Dalmatian, Darby. She was reactive to people and dogs, and the intense, crowded agility environment of course made it worse. I taught her to charge at her tug so she could redirect that negative energy to something appropriate. We did a lot of duration tugging while walking through crating areas, waiting to go to the line, etc. But, interestingly, you’re right, as soon as we stopped tugging, her attention turned elsewhere because I now see clearly that I used the tugging as a crutch, not as the effective solution it might’ve been. I didn’t take tugging to the next step of using it to reinforce focus & value for me. You can be sure I’m doing that with Ginger Peach & Magnum now!

    Reply

  45. Rebecca Fouts says:
    Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 7:22pm

    I think it’s because you build more anticipation with the short bursts – there’s more to the game than just tugging, more of a give and take. To continue the reward, they must continue to offer behavior, continue to interact with you.

    And you are being fare more provocative with the game. Like someone else said, you’ve transferred the value to you – it’s not necessarily the tug toy that holds the value – but you interacting with the dog. Those who do the long duration tug seem to be removed from the game. They can stand there and chat away while the dog plays by himself. So why would the dog focus on them more at that point – they’ve made themselves completely irrelevant at that point. They’re just a tug holder.

    Where as with your method, it’s the interaction with YOU that becomes the reward – the tug is just the tool of that interaction.

    Reply

  46. spotted-dog says:
    Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 10:40pm

    Great information! Thanks so much for sharing your tugology!! It certainly has helped me.

    Reply

  47. spotted-dog says:
    Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 11:36pm

    @ ANNA — During one of Susan’s Recallers courses, one or more vets chimmed in to say that if some of the dogs are not liking tugging or showing any signs of of unease or discomfort …… that the dog may have an issue with his or her teeth. If it has been a bit of time since your pup’s teeth have been examined……it might be of help to you and your hungarian vizsla to have her teeth examined…..just to be sure.

    Reply

  48. Eve Ross says:
    Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 10:09pm

    Great post and great comments. Lots to try…
    This is a request to talk a little about the mechanics in a future blog. With a non-tugger who I’m trying to help love tugging (Recallers tugging group is great help)I find myslef fumbling through begining, tugging, ending, starting again, delivering food (and now short games or tricks)….You mentioned you had lots of thoughts about the mechanics and I would love to hear/read them. Thanks again….

    Reply

  49. Lee says:
    Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 10:20pm

    Super suggestions! I just tried this with my hesitant tugger, having just a quick tug, then asking for sit, down, break, run & tug, PB&J; worked great! I’ve been guilty of trying for duration, thinking that was better… OMG, so much to learn! Thank goodness my dog is smart (and forgiving)!

    Reply

  50. Kirstie says:
    Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 11:34pm

    So for the times when you need to stop and talk to the instructor, what is the best action for your dog? Send to crate, put into a down or?

    Reply

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