If your house is anything like ours you’ve probably got dog toys everywhere on the floor in every room.
It’s a fact: dogs love toys. They love toys so much that they’ll make anything into a toy given enough time, boredom, and lack of supervision.
Toys are also one of the most powerful tools to have in our positive reinforcement bag of tricks and there’s always been one that I keep hidden away – only pulled out on super-special occasions – whose value at the moment I take it out is almost as good as a bag of hot dogs.
When I need to go nuclear with dogs to distract them, direct them, or just to reward them, I push the button with the Tennis Tug.
The Tennis Tug is deceptively simple in its design, which is essentially a three-foot length of braided fleece wound through a tennis ball at the end. Woven through the Tennis Tug, however, is a magic that I’ve never been able to put my finger on but which seems to flip a switch in the head of any dog who loves Tug.
I started using the Tennis Tug at ARF in Beacon with a dog who has some resource guarding issues.
I know it sounds crazy to play tug with a resource guarder, but we only play according to the rules and only began once he had a pretty good drop-it command.
The magic of this game was that he didn’t have to guard it: he knew that he could drop-it when asked and he’d get it back again. It has done a great job in helping me reinforce simple commands for him and a great job at teaching him that many things just don’t have to be guarded. (Stay tuned for more on crazy Wesley in future posts.)
When puppy Pinball came to live with us, I was in the middle of writing A Dog Named Boo and had to devise a game that he could play while I typed. Tucking the tennis tug securely under my foot or thigh – when sitting – I could work as he tugged away.
I can’t tell you why you would want a Tennis Tug, but I will tell you what I use it for:
- With Wesley at ARF, because he got the Tennis Tug for good behaviors I was able to begin whittling away at some pretty big issues in return.
- If Pinball is in one of his “I’m young and have a lot of energy so why not eat the pillows?!” moods, I can redirect this level of energy to the Tennis Tug which wears him out and saves my pillows.
- Finally, if the dogs have just been really, really good I’ll give them the Tennis Tug for a couple of minutes just for fun.
The Tennis Tug is a great dog toy that’s cheap, pretty durable for a tug toy, and I think your dog would get a blast out of it. Mine certainly do.
Remember: this is a supervised toy. Do not leave it with them alone because they will eat it!
Always present it to them, play for a bit, ask for a drop-it, pay for that and put the toy away when finished.