You read about dogs who don’t play tug and you shake your head. Dogs that don’t play tug? That makes no sense because your dog has never seen a tug toy he didn’t love. As a matter of fact, he loves them so much that he doesn’t bring them back – pretty much…ever.
You present the toy. He grabs hold. You play an awesome game! You let him win. And….that’s it. He runs off to the far side of the yard. Maybe he stands there looking at you or maybe he sits down for a good chew, but once your hands are off that toy it’s pretty much over.
Your dog obviously loves the interactive game of tug. Indeed, he will bring you toys to play but after that first win? That’s it.
The good news is that there’s a straightforward answer for a high percentage of dogs, and based on the results of my learning quiz on Play many of you don’t know about it.
The answer is…to reduce possession, lower the amount of effort your dog has to put out to win the toy. What do you do? Play like you’re weak. So weak, you can barely hold on. Dog bites toy and…wins! Tiny tugs and that’s it! Just like that.
What happens next?
Well the first few times, your dog gleefully grabs the toy and runs off. You back away from your dog, telling them how amazing they are! How strong and clever! And you keep backing up – calling if you wish but…backing away.
Think about what is happening here.
Your dog wants to win, but if your dog wins immediately and there really is no tug, then there is no win. And…he knows that.
I mean, imagine you are playing a game of tug-of-war with other people. And as soon as the game started, you won instantly! You were so strong that you just zoomed backwards! How exciting is that?
Not very. What fun is it to win against total weaklings?
Compare that to being with a well matched team where you have to work incredibly hard to win. Now you have something to crow about!
Consider this. If the other team asked you if you wanted to play again, how quickly would you run over and give it another shot? If you won instantly, then not only would you probably play again immediately, but you would likely humor them by playing much less intensely. But the team you are equally matched against? There you might have to think about whether you wanted to play again. You could actually lose this time! Not to mention you’d be a little tired, and might appreciate a rest.
Apply that thinking to your dog. You offer your dog a toy to play, and within two seconds, your dog has already won and you are backing up and inviting them to play again. They bring it back (eventually), and you repeat this! Just two seconds of tiny tugs on the toy, and backing away again while you cheerfully call them in for another try.
Soon your dog is following you around trying to convince you to play a much more aggressive game of tug. They want to play and they want to win, but they want to have something to win over!
When your dog starts bringing the toy back regularly then you can increase the amount of effort you put out, but you will find that with players like this you will always have more success if you play much less intensely and let them drive you to re-engage rather than you trying to talk them into it.
This won’t solve the issue of dogs that just sit down and chew toys without playing at all, nor will it solve the issue of dogs that don’t release toys back to you or who chew the toy or work their way up to your hands, making you afraid to play altogether. And this technique won’t help with dogs that don’t play tug, nor with dogs that only play for a short while and then get bored of the whole thing. Maybe those are blogs for another day or you can take my online Play class and learn about those things now.
But for dogs that love to tug and then won’t return after they win? For those dogs – tiny tugs can be the ticket to a much happier game for both of you.
Here’s a video of Michelle and Link before tiny tugs:
And here’s a video incorporating tiny tugs for the first titme:
Give it a shot!