"Loading" Your Power Paws Tug-N-Treat
By Nancy Gyes
Is your dog crazy for treats, but unmotivated by toys during agility training? The Power Paws Tug-N-Treat allows you to combine food with a toy to create a powerful motivational training aid. Open the Velcro closing on the toy and fill it with large chunks of Rollover, baked liver, beef tripe, prime rib, or your dog’s favorite cookies. Close the Velcro to seal the pouch.
Now make the Tug-N-Treat into the most exciting toy you and your dog have ever played with. The goal is to get the dog to play tug with you and your new toy. If your dog is uninterested, or if you want him at more of a fevered pitch when playing, try some of these ideas.
- Put your Tug-N-Treat somewhere the dog can see it but cannot access it (such as on top of the refrigerator or the mantle, or hung from the ceiling with a string). Don't put it anywhere that your dog can reach and don't put it in a place where you'll be apt to correct the dog if he attempts to retrieve it.
- At the times of the day when your dog is most likely to be excited to see you and your Tug-N-Treat (for example, when you first get up in the morning, at dinner time, when you come home from work, after a bath, etc.) go to the "hideout" and make a huge game of simply getting the toy from its resting place. Play with the toy by yourself for awhile, giving it a name, like "special" (a la John Rogerson, the great English dog behaviorist and originator of this toy game) and make goo-goo eyes and sounds over the toy. Be animated—toss it in the air, make it dance like a small animal around your shoulders, drag it around and tease your dog, and make it jump around your legs, all the time keeping it away from the dog.
- After a few days of keep-away, your dog should be spending an inordinate amount of time mooning over the toy's hideaway location and staring at it, praying you'll come and get it down and tease him with it. Once in a while, as you pass the toy's hideout, point out the Tug-N-Treat to the dog, saying, "Do you want Special?" but do not get it out. Expect claw marks on the furniture and walls if you put it just out of his reach, and this is a GOOD thing!
- After the dog has hit the desired frenzied pitch, let him actually catch hold of the toy when you get it out and play some wild tug games. In the beginning, don't control the play too much—"trick" the dog to get the Tug-N-Treat out of his mouth or pry open his jaws to remove it. Point to the floor or anywhere in the room and say "What’s that?" When the dog looks away and loosens his grip, say "I got it!" and start the keep-away game again. Ask him where "Special" is in that tone of voice that makes him go wild.
- Let the dog get a taste of the "innards" once in awhile by making a huge deal over opening the Tug-N-Treat and letting him try to gnaw off a small hunk of the food while you hold the toy open. Alternatively, palm a treat of the same variety as inside (give him the good stuff, no tricks!) and pretend to open it after he understands the game.
- When your dog will play madly at home, take "Special" outside, then down the street, then to the park, and so on. After he will play in other places, take the Tug-N-Treat to agility practice and use it like a ball or a target toy for send-aways, or at the end of a set of weaves, and so on. Play with your dog just before the exercise, hide the Tug-N-Treat behind your back, and have a friend take it without the dog seeing where it went, and magically produce it at the end of your run. Hide it in different places on your body, under your arm, down your trousers, inside your own sock, and let it magically fall out at varied times during practice, not just at the end of the run. Be interesting and creative with this toy. Let your dog chase it down and "kill it."
Remember to renew the food stuffings often so that the treats don't spoil, or store it in the refrigerator part of the time. Also, wash your toy periodically in the washing machine.