I recently got a question about improving tugging with a dog that prefers thrown toys (and doesn’t necessarily retrieve them 😉 ) and I thought it would make an interesting blog topic.
Note: This is not how I teach retrieve, but it is how I teach the dog to not play keep-away with the toy I have thrown. I never, ever chase the dog once she has the toy – I run in the other direction!
My Toy Is Better Than Yours
I learned the basic two toy game from a dog disc site, but I forgot where… The intention of this exercise was to teach the dog that the toy in handler’s hands was more interesting than the one the dog has. The two toys should be exactly the same so the dog doesn’t prefer one over the other. The game is simple:
- Make toy 1 come alive, entice the dog to grab it
- Release it and make the toy 2 come alive
- Pick up toy 1, release toy 2 and make toy 1 come alive…
This is a lot of fun and my dogs love it! Once they’re really into the game you can also throw in a Sit or other cues to practice their listening skills while in drive 🙂
Tugging For Retrievers
In its basic form this game can be just about chasing and grabbing the toy, no tugging required. But if you have a dog that will hold on to the toy for as little as a second you can start reinforcing tugging with it. First just tug a little before releasing the toy and grabbing another one. If your dog goes crazy for a thrown toy you could also try throwing it in between, so the game now looks like this:
- Make toy 1 come alive, then tug for a second or two when dog grabs it
- Say Yes or another marker
- Throw toy 2 (this is reward for tugging)
- Make toy 1 come alive as the dog is returning with toy 2 (she will probably drop it somewhere near you)
- Dog tugs on toy 1
- Say Yes, throw toy 2
Or, if the dog releases the toy when you say Yes you can also throw the toy you have been just tugging on. Mix it up!
If you want a better tugger make sure that you always start with a little tugging (even if it’s just a tiny tug) before you throw any toy.
Ruby and Java were really happy to demonstrate this game for you 🙂 And the grinding noise in the beginning of video? That’s Manners Minder keeping Java occupied so she doesn’t have the time to voice her disagreement over me playing with Ruby…