The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog

with Michael Ellis

Skill Level: Beginner

Length: 5 Modules

Access Period: Unlimited

Price: $65.00

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The Power of Playing

Tug with Your Dog


 52 seconds


 Michael opens with a lecture on why using toy rewards is a powerful tool in any dog training program. He explains in detail why new trainers should learn “Marker Training” using food rewards before they consider using toy rewards.


Before a tug can be used as an obedience reward the dog must first learn the “Rules of Play”.

Those rules are:

  1. The dog must play tug with enthusiasm
  2. The dog must release the toy when told to out
  3. The dog must bring the tug back after you release it


During “Rules of Play” training, the dog learns that just because he “OUTS the toy and brings it back” does not mean the game is over. In fact, during the first stages of training the handler shows the dog the instant he releases the toy the game goes on again. Once the dog understands this concept, the conflict of "over outing the toy” goes away. This training teaches the dog that fun with toys comes by playing tug with his handler and not in possessing the toy and playing keep away from the handler.


During this training the dog learns that toys are the handler’s toys and the handler determines when and how the dog is allowed to play with toys.


In this course Michael teaches the mechanics of 10 different tug presentations. He demonstrates how these various presentations are used during engagement games with dogs.


Most dogs included in this course are untrained dogs with handlers new to this system of training. It is important to have someone like Michael demonstrate the correct form on how to play, and then watch new trainers who have never done this work before trying it yourself.


Not all dogs like to play tug. Some dogs have never had their play drive developed and some have had it squelched by a handler with little experience. Michael addresses solutions to both of these issues. He explains how different sizes, textures, and types of tugs effect drive levels in dogs. He explains how to increase prey drive through proper tug selection and presentation.


Michael also explains how to avoid equipment bias in our dogs. Equipment bias occurs when a dog will play with one toy and not another. Understanding size and types of toys will help eliminate equipment bias. Our long term goal is for our dogs to play with any toy we offer.


During the drive building for this work, you will learn how to teach a second handler to hold your dog on leash (we call this posting). You will also learn how to build drive and intensity by intentionally making your dog miss a bite on the tug.


There are right and wrong ways to allow your dog to grip a tug, and there are right and wrong mechanics of how to play with your dog once it’s gripped a tug. It behooves to learn how to safely train your dog in the art of playing tug.


There is a large segment in the course where Michael teaches 10 different presentations on how to catch a dog on a tug.

  1. The frontal catch
  2. The catch to the right
  3. The catch to the left
  4. The stationary rear catch to the right
  5. The stationary rear catch to the left
  6. The rear spin catches to the right
  7. The rear spin catches to the left
  8. The presentation from the place-position (when dog stands between your legs)
  9. The presentation with the right hand from the heel position
  10. The presentation with the left hand from the heel position


After the handler and dog understands these presentations they need to learn how to introduce distractions during tug play. Michael is an expert on proofing his training by layering in distractions.


In the course Michael demonstrates that dogs often learn more and learn quicker during their learning phase when worked at lower levels of drive. Once the dog understands an exercise the drive level can be increased. When drive levels increase, both the intensity and speed of the dog performing that exercise will increase.


One of the most important aspects of using tug play as a reward in a training system is to have a dog that consistently and willingly OUTS the tug on command. Training the OUT is a big segment of this video. You will see a number of dogs at different training levels being worked on the OUT. One of the dogs has a serious OUT problem. During this training the dog also learns to bring the tug back to the handler after the handler releases the tug during the play.


It’s not uncommon during tug training to have a situation where the handler is gets his hands bit by his dog. Michael has a segment in this course teaching how to eliminate this.


Michael also talks about playing tug with puppies. When it comes to tug work with puppies it is vitally important to know when to do it, how to do it, and when to stop doing it. He explains what not to do when puppies are teething.


 Course Outline


Module 1   Introduction
  Segment 1 Meet Michael Ellis
  Segment 2 What Toys to Use
  Segment 3 Fundamentals of Playing Tug 
Module 2   Training the Out
  Segment 1 Beginning Steps in Teaching the Out
  Segment 2  Creating Drive 
  Segment 3 Engagement
  Segment 4 Training with Tugs
  Segment 5 Equipment Bias
Module 3   The Mechanics of Tug Presentation
  Segment 1 Learning to Give Misses
  Segment 2 Posting
  Segment 3 Posting - Student Demos
  Segment 4 Posting Mistakes that Create Problems in Training
  Segment 5 Tug Presentations
  Segment 6 Learning the Presentations
  Segment 7 Left to Right Presentations
  Segment 8 Stationary Catches 
  Segment 9 Student Catch Demos
  Segment 10 Teaching the Out
Module 4   Possession, Capping, and Corrections
  Segment 1 Tug Possession
  Segment 2 Capping
  Segment 3 Dogs with Extreme Tug Possession
  Segment 4 Corrections
  Segment 5 Training with Distractions
  Segment 6 Managing Drive
  Segment 7 Avoiding Dog Bites
  Segment 8 Puppies and Tug Work
Module 5   Where to Go From Here
  Segment 1 Continue Your Education with Michael


Beginner trainers and dog enthusiast looking to increase their dogs play and toy drive.


The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog is the second training course in Leerburg’s series of dog training with Michael Ellis. This video follows Michael’s the Power of Training Your Dog with Food. We recommend taking Power of Training Dogs with Food before taking this course.

Course Outline


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What's the difference between this course, the DVD, and the stream?


DVD:  5 hours 25 minutes (physical copy)

Stream:  5 hours 25 minutes, lifetime access, stream from anywhere

Online Course:  96 videos (312 minutes), text content, lifetime access, stream from anywhere on any smart device

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