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Will tuggy games turn my puppy into a terror?

Play is a huge part of any dog’s life and toys are an invaluable tool in training. Toy play is great for building and strengthening bonds between owner and puppy, it’s a great energy burner, gives an outlet for unwanted puppy biting and channels instinctive behaviours such as chasing appropriately.

So why is there such a misconception in playing tug of war games? It is one of the most common worries I come across when talking to owners -that playing tuggy games will build their dog's jaw strength and make them aggressive. The truth is, playing constructive tuggy games with some basic rules can help to improve your puppy’s self control, help to prevent unwanted behaviours from developing and strengthens the bond between you and your puppy.

There are lots of toys on the market to choose from but I've found the best tuggy toys for puppies are long, soft plaited toys. These won’t cause damage to tiny puppy teeth and will ensure that said teeth stay far away from your hands.

To introduce tug games, use two identical toys, keeping one hidden initially. You want to make the toy fast moving and enticing, keeping it low on the ground to avoid your puppy from jumping up. Tease your puppy with near misses and then let him win it, giving him a tug of war game then let him have it. Your puppy will likely run away to parade it around you. Keep your cool, then whip out the other toy and make that really fun enticing your puppy to drop the original toy and come to engage with you. Once your puppy is reliably exchanging the toys the word ‘Drop’ can be introduced as a cue to introduce some structure to the game. If your puppy gets a little bit too excitable or accidentally makes contact with you skin, the game ends abruptly, walk away and leave your puppy to settle down.

Tug games are not just great for puppies but are also a useful outlet for stress and frustration based behaviours and so can be a useful for dogs of all ages and backgrounds.

For more advice get in contact for some 121 training to learn more about the advantages of toy play and its use in training. 

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