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I recently watched a video from Leerburg where a dog was being trained with a 15" jute tug toy. I've never seen this before, but it looked like the dog really enjoyed it, and seemed like it would be a great tool to use for dogs that exhibit resource-guarding tendencies, as well as building greater attention focus. Also, it looked like a lot of fun in general. It was used as a form of reward, much like treats and praise.

Has anyone tried tug training with the toys?
 

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I personally love tug and use it as a reward whenever it is practical. I do tug training usually twice a day and it provides a great energy outlet while building focus, as you mentioned.

I have not seen the Leerburg video you are referring to, can you post a link?

Tug came very naturally to my APBT, but I had to train the behavior into my Hound. Usually, they will both choose a good game of tug over a food reward!
 

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The Leerburg video was a DVD a friend had (The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog), but the URL to the tug I want to get is: http://leerburg.com/1265-2.htm. The jute, from what I read, will wear down after a bit, but looks like it's easy to hold (as opposed to the nylon ones), and is listed as being easy on dogs' teeth. It should still last quite some time. The warning is that if you're training a dog with an extremely strong bite, like a GSD or a Malnois, it will one day wear out. I have Aussies, and can testify that they'll chew through anything, given time. For $20, I'll happily replace it when it's time.
 

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I don't understand why this is great for a resource guarder.

But yea, I use tug as a reward. It falls into the category of "life rewards" in my book.
I use a Skineez and only for training so it stays novel. They die quickly but Kaki loves to kill shake things that flop around like that.
It was particularly useful for tracking training which we don't do much anymore.

I also use tug to drain predatory energy(that's what I call it anyway). Kaki sees squirrel but can't have it. Channel that into tug. Tense moment for fight with another dog, channel that into tug.
 

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I don't understand why this is great for a resource guarder.
In the way it's used in the video, the trainer gets the dog to bite the tug, pulls them a bit to make it fun and engaging, and then holds the tug still until the dog releases it. This trains an 'out' command for release, but also teaches the dog that this toy is of no value unless both human and dog are holding it. When the session is over, he takes the tug with him. It isn't for the dog's casual use, to prevent the dog from learning to play with it alone. Non of my dogs are hard-core resource guarders, but one does it a little. He'll give me anything he has, but only after multiple commands. My other dogs will just spit out whatever they have when I ask. He's also very serious about tug of war, and will play as long as I want to keep it up. This tug training seemed ideal for his training and play time.
 

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Maybe I'm dense, but I still don't understand how that would help any real RGer.

Have you ever had a dog stop stiff and just give you this look? I don't know how to describe it but I know they're not playing anymore. They get the toy for not eating my face and in the future we don't play something as highly arousing as tug. We could also work our way up to it with object exhanges plus practicing 'give' and 'take'.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
In a case like that, I would assume that other training would first be necessary to avoid physical danger. I've had Chows, GSD's, mixes, Aussies, and not one of them has ever made me feel like I would be risking injury for taking something from them. I've experienced reluctance, but not aggression. If I had, another approach (no idea what, since it wasn't necessary) would have been necessary. In my case, what I hope to gain from tug training is a handy alternative to treats for reinforcement and encouraging engagement during play. The tug I've been considering is easy to carry around and use anywhere.
 

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So, the "take it" and "out" commands for tug don't really translate to a true, formed resource guarder (like the dog that growls when you get near "his" food or toys). Tug is a behavior pattern. I say "take it" to initiate the game of tug, and then I say "out" to end the game of tug. The words are about a game, not a way of life (like, teaching the dog it's always a good plan to give up "their" things). Even if you do get a successful "take it" and "out" with the tug, you've done nothing to teach your dog to give you things he has when not tugging. Out doesn't mean "give me the thing in your mouth" it means "stop tugging." Actually, I think the kind of rules that govern a game of tug used as a reward would be potentially negative for a resource guarder, because what do they get for giving you "their" toy? Nothing. You've just reinforced the idea that you'll take fun things from them.

And I imagine it would be REALLY hard to teach a dog with resource guarding issues to out a tug. Personally, I really think you're setting the dog up to fail if you try to teach tug to a resource guarder... but I'm not sure that's really what you have. Hypothetically, you could reward a dog's out during tug with food, but I really don't like rewarding a tug with food. The reason tug works so well is because it's an inherently rewarding behavior for the majority of dogs. Sometimes food can be used to help an extremely reluctant dog understand how tug works, but that's a different situation. I would suggest looking at other threads on this forum (or picking up a copy of MINE! by Jean Donaldson) to fix the resource guarding as opposed to trying to fix it with tug. Anways, end tangent.

I use food and tug together in the majority of my training sessions. I LOVE tug! Tug is excellent for "working a dog up" or building arousal -- it adds more enthusiasm and intensity to behaviors. It's also just ridiculously fun to see your dog get as excited as tug-savvy dogs do. Food is better for when you want a more thoughtful dog, like when you're shaping something. Usually, I'll start a session with tug, do some shaping with food, break it up with a game of tug, do more shaping with food, and end with a game of tug in many, short 5-ish minute sessions. What's important to me, though, is that the dog will tug in the presence of food and take food in the presence of his tug toys. A lot of times, especially with dogs learning to see the value in tugging, you get dogs that say "no, thank you, I'd rather not tug right now, you should give me chicken instead." It's important to insist that, no, if you're asking the dog to tug, he tugs. Otherwise tug will never be a successful reward for you and you could inadvertently teach the dog to refuse to tug.

What in particular do you like about the Leerburg toy? It seems like you'd have to be pretty strong to use it successfully (since it doesn't have a good grip), and I really like handles on my tugs. I also have crap for upper body strength, though. Tug also isn't really ever about "chewing" and more about biting and pulling/holding -- an entirely different stresser than a chew. My tug toys last a lot longer than any chew toys or freebie stuffies that I give my dogs, although they do have to be replaced.

Leerburg said:
The reason we designed it without handles is because tugs with handles allow dogs with OUT problems to self satisfy into the tug.
??????????? What? I assume "self satisfy into the tug" means that if you hold a tug on the handle, and the dog tugs against you (without you moving), the dog still gains reinforcement for the movement of the toy. So... just hold your handled tug taught by both ends? When I'm teaching dogs to release the toy as soon as I stop moving it (which is really their "OUT" cue) and get reluctance, I just slide my hand down the tug and hold it taught to prevent any reinforcement. Seems like a useless marketing gimmick to me.

From what I think remember about the last time I perused that website, Leerburg primarily trains protection GSDs. I think the tug you've chosen is designed to be part of a system of increasing tugs, where each step requires more bite strength and is less comfortable to the dog to hold onto? Where the end goal would be getting a dog to do "bite work", like the kind seen in Schutzhund? I could be wrong about this, but I'm confused as to why they would offer "levels" of tugs for other reasons. I'm not sure that this tug is the best choice for what you want to use it for, which brings me to another question...

What are you going to be using it for? Just adding intensity to normal pet behaviors? You would probably be much better off starting with a softer tug, that's even more comfortable than jute supposedly is. One of the most basic and successful introductory tugs is the braided fleece rope. Leerburg sells one here for 18 dollars: http://leerburg.com/1210.htm , but you can make them or buy them elsewhere for MUCH cheaper... just google "braided fleece tug." One of the other main types of tug is the "fur" tug, that's basically a handle attached to a rectangular fur plush. But you can also get really crazy with tugs... just look at Clean Run: http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_ID=29 . I would suggest just starting with your basic cheap fleece braid and then figuring out what really gets your dog going -- is it sounds? smells? textures? does he like to make things "crunch"? Does he like fur? Does he like an excessive amount of "strips"?

My particular favorite tug is the Crunch 'N' Tug: http://web.mac.com/mtrebino/Site/Crunch-N-Tug.html . Especially if you put something in the bottle, like a little bit of sand or cat litter, to make noises. I've found it to be a highly rewarding toy.
 

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You've just reinforced the idea that you'll take fun things from them.
This is what I was thinking.
I do not want to be the person to get a RGer really revved over a toy and then insist on taking it away.
Jean Donaldson also has a good piece on tug, laying the foundations for tug rules, in The Culture Clash. It's what I use.

Wil.wish-
My personal favorite is the Skineez(also the first toy Kaki ever played with). I can squeeze it into my belt loop during training and whip it out fast enough that the dog can't help but connect the verbal reward marker and the game of tug. They don't last that long but you can get 'em at Ross super cheap.
I also love any kind of tennis ball+rope combo as long as it floats. These are more versatile than the skineez and still easy to carry around. I don't buy a particular brand though so that's not terribly helpful for you.
I also prefer for tug toys to be at least a foot in length. It's too easy with short ropes for a dog to miss the toy and get your hand instead.
 

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Having actually seen the Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog (which is produced by Ed Frawley of Leerburg, but the trainer is Michael Ellis, who is a very positive-based Schutzhund trainer in California), I can see where it would help with a dog that is reluctant to give things up.

At first, "you must out the toy to get the toy." You're actively playing with the dog, then the toy goes dead (and there does seem to be some merit to the no handles thing) which is way less fun. At first you have to wait the dog out, but eventually he's going to go "Dude what the heck?!" and let go to look up at you. Mark that, and make the toy come alive again. So giving things up means you will get them back immediately and they will be fun again.

When the dog is fluently letting go as soon as the toy goes dead, you can put it on cue, and slowly ask the dog for greater feats of control. But before you can use the toy as a motivator for obedience, your dog needs to know the rules of the game. Not sorta kinda most of the time. Knows them and abides by them without question.

This is a really good article on choosing tug toys.
 

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If a handler happens to be obedience (or agility) "competition-minded", a tug can be covertly utilized between excercises, much the same as mild praise.

Pant cuffs, leashes, shirt sleeves, hands, etc ... *who says* you can't bring toys in the ring ?


.... just sayin', FWIW. :)
 

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I want to add that Michael Ellis is a phenomenal trainer, and an excellent teacher. Most experienced clicker trainers could probably skip "The Power of Training Dogs with Food," there's not a ton of new information (though it is presented very well, especially the mechanics and why they are important) and Schutzhund trainers like markers, but hate clickers and shaping. Ed Frawley interrupts and repeats things a lot.

"The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog" is definitely worth a watch to the trainer with a high drive dog. This type of training is fairly narrow in the types of dogs that will be successful. It's easier with a medium to large dog than a small one, and the dog really needs to have a fair amount of drive. Overly soft or unmotivated dogs can be overwhelmed by the fast, furious, physical nature of the training. Gatsby is a little smaller than ideal, but he has enough drive and motivation for a tug that he could be brought along. Some aspects of it are a little too direct for Marsh, who doesn't love to tug because he's a good little retriever who wants to deliver to hand. If your dog has a physical play style and likes to tug, he'll probably take well to this style of training. For the dogs that fit the model, it works really, really well. At the end of this tape is a "home video" of Michael playing and training his puppy. These four minutes are worth the cost of the video alone, it's an excellent example of making rewards an event and interaction with your dog.

I also have Michael Ellis' Retrieve DVD and his Jumps (hurdle, bite sport broad jump, and wall) DVD. If you're doing agility, there are better agility specific jumping DVDs, but for obedience it would be sufficient and obviously it caters to bite sports. The Retrieve DVD is interesting. it's a little different from most motivational retrieve methods I've seen. I'll be experimenting with it on Marsh.

His later DVDs are better than his older ones. Ed Frawley talks less.
 

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I love tug. It's one of the best things that I ever taught Kimma. Invaluable for agility training (easier to throw a toy than a treat in the grass!), and it has helped her tons with self control and focus on me. I sort of used tug to help with Pentti (my worst RGer - Bubbles has some bouts of RGing, and Kimma has none since I raised her from a pup), and I can say that it really did help. He wasn't very extreme, though, so I'm not sure how it would help those types of dogs. It came naturally to Pen and Bubbles, but Kimma didn't care about toys for the first 1.5 years of her life LOL. Now, Pen and Kimma seem to prefer tug to food rewards, and Bubbles is 50/50.

I personally just have one specific toy that each dog prefers, and we use that for training purposes only. That way, it never loses value versus if they had access to it at all times. Pen's is a rope toy with a a tennis ball, Kimma's is a lambs wool toy with squeakers, and Bubbles' is a non-stuffed, plush rabbit toy (similar to a Skineez).
 

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"The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog" is definitely worth a watch to the trainer with a high drive dog. This type of training is fairly narrow in the types of dogs that will be successful. It's easier with a medium to large dog than a small one, and the dog really needs to have a fair amount of drive. Overly soft or unmotivated dogs can be overwhelmed by the fast, furious, physical nature of the training.
I'm glad I stumbled across this thread and that you said this RaeganW! I've tried to watch the streaming version of the vid but our internet is so poor out here it glitches a lot, so I've been contemplating blowing the bucks for the DVD. Yet another good review convinces me that I will do it for sure! I've been very impressed with the Michael Ellis short stuff I've seen and it would be a great style for training Caeda.

For the OP. I know the tug you're talking about, I think they sell them on the Leerburg site, but I made my own. I took an old terrycloth bathrobe that I was going to throw out (a towel would work too), sewed a tube out of it and stuck some more cloth in it. Voila! I found it gave me a really good grip too. Its surprisingly resilient if you do a good job on the sewing. It also gives you the ability to make it a little bit smaller if your dog's jaws aren't quite full grown yet.
 

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I play tug with my dogs all the time as a reward, starting from puppyhood and continuing throughout their life.

It actually can be a good game to play with a resource guarder, for one thing you aren't giving them the item at any time, you are interacting with them with the item, and teaching them the rules of the game (you let go, ie relinquish it to me, and the fun will begin again, and the fun is interacting with me, not running off and possessing the toy on your own), without triggering the full blown resource guarding that might come by you letting them have the tug. I've had multiple dogs that were resource guarders that loved to play tug, and actually learned to enjoy retrieving and giving things to me because the game of tug was more fun than guarding the object.

I've known Michael for years, he is an excellent trainer, not only his methods for training, but his ability to clearly communicate those methods to the human. Actually I think that is what makes him special as a trainer, his ability to teach.

As far as the tug not having handles, it does help keep the dog from self satisfying. So does having it be a more rigid material. Actually IMO the more rigid material is even more important than the lack of handle. With those rolled jute toys, which you can purchase on sites other than Leerburg, when you are playing tug with the dog, you already have the tug in a position that you can control, so when you decide to lock up it's immediately over. With a tug with a handle, or a softer material, the dog can continue to pull/thrash and get some satisfaction because the tug is still moving. You can get similar results in the end with the handles or softer materials, but it will take a little longer because it's not as immediately black and white, there are some minor shades of grey.
 
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