Skip to content

Healthy Dogs

Teaching Your Dog to Play Tug-of-War

Font Size
A
A
A

How to Play continued...

Step Two: Teach Your Dog to Drop the Tug on Cue

You should NOT shout or intimidate your dog in order to get her to release the tug toy. Just speak in a conversational, calm voice. Different training approaches work for different dogs, so consider the following methods and see which you like best:

  • Before you start a game of tug with your dog, hide a few treats in your back pocket. During play, when you want your dog to release the toy, say “Give” or “Drop it,” and instantly stop tugging. Let your arm go limp, but keep holding the toy with one hand. Then, with your other hand, take out one of the hidden treats and put it right in front of your dog’s nose so that she can’t help but smell it. Most dogs will instantly release the toy to eat the treat. When your dog lets go of the toy, say “Yes!” and give her the treat. Ask her to sit. When she does, say “Get it!” and invite her to play tug again. If you repeat this sequence many times, your dog will eventually learn to release the tug toy as soon as she hears you say “Give” or “Drop it,” and you won’t have to use the treat in front of her nose. Continue to reward your dog with treats when she releases the toy until she consistently drops it as soon as you ask her to do so. When you think your dog has learned the release behavior very well, you can start rewarding her by inviting her to play tug again instead of offering a treat. Note: This method might not work well for you if your dog seems reluctant to play again after receiving her treat. Some dogs are so motivated by food that they’re uninterested in play after they realize you have treats.
  • Say “Give” or “Drop it,” and instantly stop tugging on the toy. Let your arm go limp, but keep holding the toy. Then say “Sit.” If your dog releases the toy and sits, immediately say “Get it!” and entice her to play tug again. If you repeat this sequence, your dog will learn to let go of the toy and sit as soon as she hears you say “Give” or “Drop it.” When your dog consistently drops the toy on cue, you can start to vary how long she must stay in the sit before you invite her to tug again.
  • Say “Give” or “Drop it,” and instantly stop tugging the toy. Put it between your slightly bent knees. Use your knees to clench the toy and hold it stock still. The purpose of this action is to take the toy out of play, which will discourage your dog from continuing to tug on it. When your dog lets go of the toy, immediately say “Get it!” and entice her to play tug again. If you repeat this sequence, your dog will learn to release the tug toy as soon as she hears you say “Give” or “Drop it,” and you won’t have to put it between your knees anymore. When your dog consistently drops the toy on cue, you can start to vary how long she must wait before you invite her to play tug again. You can also ask your dog to sit before giving her permission to retake the toy.
  • Say “Give” or “Drop it,” and instantly stop tugging the toy. Let your arm go limp, but keep holding the toy with one hand. With the other hand, reach over your dog’s head to cover her eyes. Some dogs will release the toy as soon as you do this. If your dog releases the toy, immediately say “Get it!” and entice her to play tug again. If you repeat this sequence, your dog will learn to let go of the toy as soon as she hears you say “Give” or “Drop it,” and you won’t have to cover her eyes anymore. When your dog consistently drops the toy on cue, you can start to vary how long she must wait before you invite her to play tug again. You can also ask your dog to sit before giving her permission to retake the toy.
  • Say “Give” or “Drop it,” and instantly stop tugging the toy. Let your arm go limp, but keep holding the toy with one hand. With the other hand, reach toward your dog and grasp her collar. Gently pull her forward, toward you, and hold her stationary. This makes any tugging she does ineffective. Continue to hold your dog’s collar and wait. Don’t say anything. Most dogs will drop the toy after a few seconds. The instant your dog lets go of the tug toy, say “Yes!” and release her collar. Then say “Get it!” and invite her to play tug again. If you repeat this sequence, your dog will learn to let go of the toy as soon as she hears you say “Give” or “Drop it,” and you won’t have to take hold of her collar anymore. When your dog consistently drops the toy on cue, you can start to vary how long she must wait before you invite her to play tug again. You can also ask your dog to sit before giving her permission to retake the toy.
  • After your dog has enjoyed the tug game for a few minutes, choose a moment when she has a secure hold of the toy and is actively tugging. Then, facing your dog, take one end of the tug toy in each hand. Lift your dog’s muzzle up toward you and say “Give” or “Drop it." If she does not immediately stop tugging on the toy, stop all movement and hold the toy still as you repeat "Give." Then push the toy gently toward your dog. You might even have to walk toward her, pushing the toy into her mouth as she tries to keep the game going by backing away from you. Do your best to keep a static but secure hold on the toy until your dog's jaws loosen their grip. Once you feel your dog’s hold on the toy slacken, ease it from her mouth. The instant that the toy is no longer in your dog’s mouth, say "Get it!" and resume the game.

Today on WebMD

bulldog in party hat
Breeds with longevity
Doberman Pinscher Clipped Ears
The facts about ear cropping and tail docking.
 
dog with duck in mouth
Which are considered smartest?
boxer dog
What are their health issues?
 
Pit bull looking up
Article
Pets: Is My Dog Normal
Slideshow
 
Dog scratching behind ear
Slideshow
dog catching frisbee
Slideshow
 

Love your pets, hate your allergies?

Get tips for relief.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Dog Breed RMQ
Quiz
Lady owner feeding dog
Slideshow
 
pooldle
Slideshow
bulldog in party hat
Slideshow