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We have a 3 mo old lab/border collie cross. I play tug with her and it's evident that she really enjoys it; she'll grab her tug toy and bring it to me when she wants to play. Since it's an easy game to play with her and she enjoys it, I generally oblige, unless I'm busy with something.

My boyfriend doesn't think it's a good idea to play tug because he believes it encourages biting. Our puppy is a bit mouthy, but being our first puppy we don't know if this is normal puppy mouthiness or if it's been exacerbated by the tug games. She doesn't mouth me a whole lot, except when she gets really excited (for instance, when I come home after being gone for a while) and I sit down to play with her while she's in that state, which I try to avoid doing. He claims she's quite mouthy.

My belief is that playing tug is okay as long as you always "win". I'll either tug until the toy slips from her mouth and I have it, or I'll pause in the middle and ask her to drop it (which she does, reluctantly). Then I ask her to sit and stay while I throw the toy, and wait for my okay to go get it, which she is very obedient about.

Will playing tug lead to biting or boisterousness, either in the puppy or down the road? Or is it a safe game as long as you remain dominant?
 

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Tug often gets a bad rap but, it's one of the better confidence builders for shy, fearful pups when you play to let them win some of the time.
Playing the game as a 'cooperative kill' where sometimes you win and sometimes the dog wins is a wonderful bonding experience with your dog.
The last (and worst) way to play is 'keep away'...winner take all. That teaches the dog to guard the resource/run off with it.
The rules are to always quit/give it up when you say so. Some go so far as to say you have to have the tug in your hand when the game ends but, I've never found a problem with just having them drop it when I say, "That's enough".
And, no, it doesn't lead to biting but, if played too enthusiastically and you can work the dog into overdrive and an accidental bite can happen while going for the tug.
 

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I think playing tug is ok. I frequently play tug with my dogs...and I very rarely IF EVER actually win. lol In my defense though...one of my dogs is 180lb Mastiff who can fling me across a room if he chooses. My other dog is a Lab who is, at last weighing, a 110lb...He's VERY strong as well...I have no prayer of winning.

However, if they have the toy and I say, "Drop it" they do and they also know what "Enough" means so I don't have any problems.

When my Lab was a pup...he was VERY VERY VERY (I can't say that enough!) nippy. I have NEVER been around a dog that would nip as much as him. If he nipped or his teeth touched me...all play ended immediately and I acted like he didn't even exist for a few minutes...when he'd calm then I'd return and act like he was the best doggy ever. He got the idea, pretty slowly but he did get it. You have to be very consistent in how you deal with it. I didn't show any anger or frustration. If he nipped, I'd get up and leave the room...that was it. He learned that if he wanted to play or wanted attention, he HAD to act with good manners in that regard. Now as an adult, he'll be 2 years old this month, he's still "mouthy", meaning he's very orally fixated...but he IS a retriever so that is what I'd consider normal. He likes to have things to carry around in his mouth, he likes to catch things. If he's chewing something he shouldn't...he is redirected to something that he CAN chew on and I try to keep the house dog proofed. I very rarely, if ever, have problems with him anymore. Some of that I think came from how I dealt with his previous behavior and some of it...he just grew out of.

I think Tooneydogs brought up an excellent point about letting them get SO excited that it sends them into "overdrive" which can lead to a bite. Cut the game short when you think your dog is getting to that point to avoid injuries.

Good luck! :)
 

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I don't let mine play tug. I have a 4 year old daughter and a full-time 3 year old nephew here--many other tiny kids here all of the time--I don't want my EM playing tug with them....that is only asking for injuries-to the kids. He knows he's not allowed-never even tries now at 15 months old.
Now, he plays tug with other dogs, fine, but I do not allow him to with humans--big or small.
 

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Tug is one of my dog's fave games, she really gets into it and we also incorporate a game of fetch into tug. She gets really tugging and then I say "are you ready!?" which means go fetch and she drops the toy and waits for me to throw it then we go back to tug. She wins, I win, we take turns! I don't think 'winning' is in a dog's mind somehow.

As for the biting, mine was pretty mouthy as a pup but she learned that chewing on mom wasn't a good thing. Although I did read that they need to learn bite inhibition so when they get older and are playing with other dogs they know how hard they can grab without actually hurting the other dog. She will take my arm in her mouth if we're wrestling (another fave game) but she puts no pressure on it. Usually if we're playing that game she has to have a toy in her mouth. She really loves to wrestle at the dog park but since she knows no pressure she has never broken skin on another dog and believe me it looks like there should be blood everywhere!!
 

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Tug is a GREAT game as long as both you and your dog abide by the RULES.
Exactly! It's a wonderful game so long as there are rules enforced. i have heard people say that the dog needs to never win, but that is a myth. You just need to make sure you are enforcing the rules and keeping the game in line. If things start getting a bit out of control, end the game.
 

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I was afraid to play tug with my Boxer when he was a puppy because I had heard it encouraged dominant behavior. But then I read a book specifically for Boxers and found the following (paraphrased)...

Tug is a great game to play with dogs. The way you teach your dog that tug is a game and not a power struggle is that when you play tug, if your dog starts pulling too hard or growling, etc. You just drop the tug toy. This doesn't let the dog win, it stops the game which they enjoy playing so much. The dog will bring the toy back to you to try to get another game going. Eventually the dog will learn not to pull so hard or the game ends.

From that point on, I have played tug with my Boxer (now a year old) and have never had a problem.
 

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I also play tug with no issues. In fact, I make sure we have one both inside and out, it's a must when we travel, and it's what we use when we play fetch. I'm not sure what I would do without it. (I'd probably have to finally build this flirt pole I've been told so much about!!!)

I'm curious if you have any pics?? I ask because I think Toby is a lab/boder collie mix.
 

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Tooney

Playing the game as a 'cooperative kill' where sometimes you win and sometimes the dog wins is a wonderful bonding experience with your dog.


Excellent explanation. How dull would it be to play a game with somebody and never win. How silly is that, you would soon tire of that game and quit. I have never owned a dog that I did not play tug with.
 

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I play tug with my dogs once I teach them the "drop it" command. They learn very quick to NEVER mouth their mouth on my skin, ever on accident, because if they do, I go "OUCH!!!!" and end the game by putting the tug toy up. Other than that, sometimes I win, sometimes they win.

Tug makes a GREAT reward in place of treats when you are training, and also during performance! >^_^<
 

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I play tug with my pups. They love it. So far I have never had a problem with them growling or getting upset like that but if they did that would be when I would end the game.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks, everyone, for all your great comments! It sounds like the general consensus is that tug's a perfectly fine game to play, just don't let the dog get too worked up over it to the point where they lose their manners. That's great to know, and a relief to hear that so many other people play tug with their dogs and have never seen any problems. I'll also be sure to let her start winning sometimes. Some stuff I'd read had suggested letting the dog win encourages dominant behaviour, so I was worried about that.

I'm including a photo of our pup, Toby4Life. By just appearance she's 90% lab and just a smidgen border collie, visible by a handful of white hairs on her chest, and a slightly lankier appearance than most labs. I'd agree with your assessment of Toby's cross, though - definitely looks like a lab/border collie.
 

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Beautiful puppy!! It's funny you mention the "lankiness" because although I don't think Toby is lanky, I always hear about how "long" he is (head to tail).

I have to laugh when I read about everyone "letting" their dogs win. There are plenty of times when we play, where I don't have a choice on who wins!! LOL
 

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okay, hey guys, now what about with a big boy. i mean, alot of you are talking about labs, boxers and whatnot, which ive played tug with and can win/lose. but my puppy is a bouvier, and im not so sure yet if he's gonna end up being one of those massive guys, lol. So tug may in the future become a game that i CANNOT win, what should i do?

i dont care for tug. but i would like somthing to work my dogs jaws and muscles.
 

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okay, hey guys, now what about with a big boy. i mean, alot of you are talking about labs, boxers and whatnot, which ive played tug with and can win/lose. but my puppy is a bouvier, and im not so sure yet if he's gonna end up being one of those massive guys, lol. So tug may in the future become a game that i CANNOT win, what should i do?

i dont care for tug. but i would like somthing to work my dogs jaws and muscles.
I HAVE a big boy. ;) He's an English Mastiff who is about 180 with some more growing to do. I play tug with him all the time. I never win (obviously :rolleyes:) but when I say "drop it" he does. I don't have any issues with him and playing tug. Sometimes I think he even takes it easy on me and doesn't pull as hard as he really could. :eek:
 

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I HAVE a big boy. ;) He's an English Mastiff who is about 180 with some more growing to do. I play tug with him all the time. I never win (obviously :rolleyes:) but when I say "drop it" he does. I don't have any issues with him and playing tug. Sometimes I think he even takes it easy on me and doesn't pull as hard as he really could. :eek:
I've heard English Mastiffs are very compassionate.:)
 

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My German Shepherds and I play tug (well, not Justin, but he's kinda stupid xD), and they love it. In fact, Strauss loves playing tug with helpers xD!!!!

When I play with him these days, I use a leather tuggy...more durable. I swing his butt around too. It's great
 

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many years ago, i was involved in a bouvier water rescue program. it was awesome. the bouvier did water rescue and gave them great purpose!!!
amazing how gentle they were when the flailing dummy in the lack, was grabbed by the arm and brought to shore by the dog. NEVER broken skin!!!
( my mother was the teacher) she is CHARLOTTE SCHWARTZ (howell publisher)
this is a dynomite thread . although my mother is a world renowned animal behavorist, we do not talk. i am her biggest fan!! always in awe of her doggie abilities! i own an obedience school, love what i do, and will be starting my dobe breeding program again.
so, i will keep yall posted and updated, just as i will love reading what you share. im eager to learn every day , something new!!!!
 
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