How To Play Tug
Playing tug is a great mental and physical exercise that creates engagement between you and your dog, and teaches your dog about self-control and bite inhibition. However, know that playing tug is a powerful game that involves predatory instincts so it is best to avoid playing tug in the presence of other off-leash dogs as they may also get adrenalized and interfere with the exercise.
You will want to use a soft tug toy so that your dog has the ability to compress it and feel like he is having an affect on it. If you have a pup who is teething, soak an old sock with water and place it in the freezer.
This makes a great teething toy that soothes your dog's gums while fulfilling the need to chew on something. It is best to use a tug that has handles on each end, giving you better control while preventing your hands from being bitten.
Place your hands on each end of the tug and hold the tug parallel to your dog's face. Give the command "take it" (say it only 1 time) and motivate your dog to engage in play. Allow your dog to bite near the center of the tug, away from your hands, then begin tugging. Try not to jerk your dog around, let your dog do most of the work while you continue to pull on the tug as if rowing a boat. While your dog is tugging, praise him. After 10-20 seconds, stop tugging and place your hands against your leg, holding the tug completely still, and say "drop it" (say it only 1 time). Hold the tug completely still until your dog releases. The moment your dog releases, praise "Good dog!!" and then immediately continue the game, "take it".
While playing tug, your dog might get excited and begin growling. This is normal, as the game itself is predatory behavior. However, it is important to keep your dog from becoming overly excited. If you are in doubt about your dog's behavior, take a break.
When resuming, again hold the tug parallel to your dog's face and say "take it" and continue as before. While your dog is tugging, praise him while occasionally using one hand to touch the top of his head,
sides of his muzzle, and his shoulders. This creates trust and tells your dog to only bite the tug. After 10-20 seconds, stop tugging and ask your dog to "drop it" as before.
Once your dog understands this game, go ahead and let him take the tug in the middle of tugging. As soon as you let go, he may not know what to do. Do not bend forward, calling him to you with your arms reaching out to him. This can quickly change the game to a game of chase. Walk or run backwards, calling him to you with your hands in front of you close to your body, in a position to receive the tug. Don't allow your dog to keep the tug from you. Use a leash or long lead to help bring your dog back to you if needed. Allowing your dog to keep the tug from you creates a game of possession rather than a game of playing with you. Once your dog returns to you, praise him, and continue as before. Your dog will learn that he needs to bring the tug back to you to keep the game going. After a few days of this, increase the rules of the game by asking your dog to "drop it", then ask for a few basic obedience commands (sit, down, place), then reward your dog by resuming the game.
Keep these tug sessions short, only 2-3 minutes. Always end the game with you ending up with the tug toy. You will also want to put the tug toy away so he can't have access to it without you. You want him to understand that the toy is only useful as a way to play with you. Remember, the reward is having the opportunity to play with You, not the tug toy itself.