Playing tug with dogs is a great way to reward a dog, to teach bite inhibition, to teach a dog to release an item on cue, to tire a dog out and to teach control of arousal levels.
To teach tug-toy, decide what the cue will be for tug-toy. Have ready a toy the dog enjoys playing with-this can be a tug toy, a rope or a Kong™ on a rope.
Pick a time when the dog appears to want to play. He or she may have invited their person or another dog to play. Take the dog to a low distraction area and ask the dog to sit. Then bring out the toy, shaking it close to the ground or dragging the toy away from the dog to encourage the dog’s interest. The dog will generally pounce on and grab the toy. After a few minutes of play (and while the dog still wants to play) the person stops the play by letting the toy go limp and withdrawing it. Initially, I reward the dog for letting go with a treat.
When the person has practiced stopping and starting tug-toy with the dog and the dog appears to enjoy the game, the person can add the cue for tug-toy.
Give the cue (for example: “tug”) and then bring out the toy and engage in play with the dog, give the cue for break, immediately stop playing by letting the toy go limp and rewarding the dog for releasing the toy, then, give the cue to play again and engage in play with the dog and so on…
I have rules for the tug-toy game which are, (1) if the dog’s teeth contact the person’s skin, the game stops immediately (let toy go limp, remove)-at no time should the play game involve the dog using his or her teeth on the person so it is important to be consistent and calm about this (2) anytime the toy is near the person’s face, the game stops – as long as the person is consistent, this teaches the dog to stop playing when the toy is near the face. If the dog tries to grab the toy out of my hand, I put the toy away for a few minutes.