Tug-of-war is a fun, engaging game to play with your dog, but, for some dogs, the game can trigger a game of "who's the boss" as well. If your dog starts nipping while you are playing tug-of-war, it may be a sign the two of you need to readjust the rules of the game. While it is possible your dog is overly excited and accidentally nipped in exuberance, he may also be asserting dominance over you.
Teach your dog to take the tug-of-war toy on command. Take the tug-of-war toy and shake it gently in front of your dog while you say "take it." When he takes his end of the toy in his mouth, praise him.
Train your dog to drop the toy when you ask him to. To get your dog to drop the toy, keep hold of the toy but quit tugging on it. Extend your other hand to his collar and move him a little closer to you. This will take tension off the toy, making it much less satisfying to tug on. Tell him to "drop it," and praise him when he does.
Practice teaching "take it" and "drop it" until he does both, reliably, on command. Don't resume playing tug-of-war until he will drop his end of the toy when you tell him to.
End the game immediately when your dog nips. Once you start playing tug-of-war again, watch for signs that your dog is getting too excited. It is best to take a short break from the game before he nips, but if you miss the warning signs, give him the "drop it" command, take the toy and walk off.
An Item You Will Need
- Tug-of-war toy
- Do not end a game of tug-of-war by letting go of the toy so your dog "wins," each game should end with you having possession of the toy.
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