Thursday, November 29, 2012


Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit. For if I really WAS a genius I would have come up with this idea a loooooooong time ago. Alas, it just struck me yesterday, so there you have it.

As we all know, Secret won't tug/play at trials. Part of this is due to stress, but I think it's mostly because she expects food. Secret has a pretty one-track mind where food is concerned. She likes it, and when it is present she really doesn't want anything else. For many dogs this would be just fine, but Secret turns on her thinking brain around food and runs slow(er).

Granted, we have made great strides in this department -- For example, she will now train with toys after Kaiser has been out working for food. This did not used to be the case. I can even leave his treat bag sitting outside and she has continued to play with toys so long as she doesn't GET anything from that bag.

At trials, though, I believe she is hard-core conditioned to food. This is because she was so stressed when we first started trialing that I didn't even bother with toys. From day one, trials equaled food in her brain.

How do you recreate this at home when home equals play and she happily tugs almost all the time? You ask for play at meal time. Bingo. Seriously, where has my brain been? How have I failed to make this connection?

So, operation "You better damn well tug if you want to eat" started last night at dinner. After much pissing and moaning Secret finally mouthed the tuggy/leash and I let her eat. We repeated this at breakfast and she mouthed it a little sooner.

Tonight at dinner I upped the ante just a bit. I wanted more than just her mouth on the toy, I wanted her to bite down on it. We got that, but still no tugging. We'll get there, though. If you can teach a dog to weave for their dinner, I think you can teach them to tug.

Want to eat, Secret? Well guess what, you're going to tug first.  :o) Maybe in time it will connect in her brain and she'll learn to love both interchangeably.


  1. I have faith!

    But I do want to butt in and say that I think tugging before dinner is a pretty big leap. I've had success with teaching
    1) tug...1 very patient and crazy..tug. stay at this step until time is very short before they tug again
    2) then switch to meal time and do eat half the meal..wait a little bit..tug..other half and gradually decrease time you need to wait before tugging and then gradually lessen the food before tugging until dog can tug anytime.

    1. It's likely to still be very different at a trial as well. When I was working on tug with Ginger we were doing mostly outdoor trials. I had to start by asking for momentary tugging in the parking lot, reward with treats and very, very, very, gradually worked on duration, then distance from the ring. I think it took us a full year to get her to tug within sight of the ring.