Step 1: Start in a place with no distractions
It’s pointless trying to introduce a tug toy to your dog for the first time when you’re in a busy environment and there are lots of distractions around. Find a quiet spot in your home to start. This can help your dog focus only on you and your tug toy, which means they are more likely to engage well.
Step 2: Think like prey
A great way to spark your dog’s innate desire to play is by moving the tug toy you are using like prey. This works especially well if you have a tug toy that’s made with real fur and has a long handle for lots of movement.
Step 3: Encourage + praise!
At first, you want to offer lots of encouragement to get your dog to interact in any way with the toy - and when they do, be sure to offer lots of verbal praise!
Step 4: It’s all about the bite area!
Now is the perfect time to show your dog that the bit of the toy they should grab with their mouth is this bit [shows bite area]. It can help to gather the handle up like this and present them with the bite area before playing tug. If your dog bites the handle instead, stop the game and start again by offering the bite area.
Step 5: Keep the tension
It’s important to keep the tension on your tug toy throughout the game - this helps stop dogs re-gripping and moving up towards the handle. Once your dog has grabbed hold of the bite area, match how hard they tug on it so that the handle of the dog stays fairly taught. Always tug in a side-to-side or back and forth motion (not up or down, as this can jarr your dog’s neck).
Step 6: Be enthusiastic!
Your dog will mirror the energy and enthusiasm that you show during play - so really go for it (and try to be genuine - your dog will know if you are faking it!).