Puppies will do pretty much anything to get your attention when they want to play. Unfortunately, this could mean that little Rover decides to tug on your sleeve to get you to engage in a rousing game of fetch or just because that sleeve seems like a fun toy. Any attention you give to your pup will reinforce this unwanted behavior, so redirect your pup to do something more acceptable.
Ignore the Tug
Ignore your puppy when he tugs on your sleeve by turning your head away from him. This will teach him that when he tugs on your sleeve, he won't get the attention he desires. When he stops tugging on your sleeve, praise him. If he is persistently tugging on the sleeve, clap your hands to startle him so that he lets go, allowing you to move your arm out of his reach. When no further tugging occurs for a few minutes, give Rover a tasty treat. Avoid telling your pooch "No!" or any other verbal scolding because this will reinforce the behavior with negative attention, something you don't want, recommends the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA.
The Drop-it Command
A way to get your little pup to immediately stop tugging at your sleeve is to teach him the "Drop-it" command. Engage your pup in a game of tug-of-war with a tug-specific toy that is long enough so that your fingers aren't in danger of being nipped. Say "Drop-it" and stop tugging on the toy, letting your arm go limp. Now hold a delicious treat near his nose. The moment your pup drops the toy give him the treat and praise him, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Now when he tugs your sleeve, order him to "Drop-it" and reward him when he does.
Puppies teethe around 4 weeks old and 4 months old, according to the Doctors Foster and Smith website. During this time, they may chew and tug on everything in their general vicinity. If your sleeve is available, they'll chew on that too. Stop this unacceptable behavior by establishing one that is acceptable. Interrupt your pup's chewing with a clap of your hands and offer him a chew toy to teethe on. Once he's chewing on the toy for a minute or two, praise him. Do this every time he chews on your sleeve, so that eventually he'll learn that chew toys are acceptable to gnaw on while your sleeve isn't.
Avoiding Rough Play
Don't engage your puppy in any rough play, such as wrestling and "play fighting" with your hands, nor should you allow him to nip at your hands or arms, warns the Milford Animal Hospital. This teaches your puppy that biting you is OK and will encourage him to tug at your sleeves or pant legs for attention. It also may foster aggressive behavior. If you notice that your pup is growling, stiffening or showing you his teeth when he is tugging on your sleeve, these are potentially problematic aggressive behaviors, warns the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Consult with your vet or veterinary behaviorist about aggressive behaviors and how to deal with them.
- San Diego Humane Society and SPCA: Four on the Floor: How to Teach Your Dog to Stop Jumping Up
- Milford Animal Hospital: Common Problems Associated With Your Puppy's First Year
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Teaching Your Dog to Play Tug-of-War
- Victoria Stilwell Positively: Why Positive Reinforcement (+R)
- The Humane Society of the United States: Dogs: Positive Reinforcement Training
- WebMD: Dog Training: Positive Reinforcement vs. Alpha Dog Methods
- VeterinaryPartner.com: Changes in Behavior with Physical Causes
- The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Warning Signs that Your Pup has a Behavior Problem
- Partnership for Animal Welfare: Dog Tip: Safer Play (Part 1)!
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.