Tug of War with your Dog

First, forget the myth.
For decades, dog owners have been told never to play tug-of-war with their dogs because it increases aggression in the dog. This isn’t true—every study done refutes the notion. Playing tug-of-war doesn’t turn your dog into a predator; he already is one. The game simply provides a safe and enjoyable outlet for the behavior.

Why it’s a good idea.
Tug-of-war is:

• A tremendous cardio workout and brainteaser for your dog.
• A great way to teach your dog to listen to commands even when excited and distracted.
• Exercise that can happen indoors, outdoors, in short sessions, and with little space.
• Likely to lessen any behavior problems resulting from under-stimulation and boredom.
• A potent motivator for snappy obedience.

The caveat.
Tug-of-war, however, should be correctly trained and always played by the rules. Remember: Control the game and you control the dog. Follow the method and rules laid out here, and you are in for a great time with your dog:

If your dog hoards the tug toy, show zero interest. If, when your dog “wins,” i.e. you let go of the tug toy, he leaves and hoards the toy, play hard to get. Never chase your dog or get into a battle involving speed or agility. You won’t win and psych-outs work much better, so pretend you couldn’t care less.

Notice and reward steps in the right direction. If your dog tries to re-engage you in the game by dropping the toy in front of you, praise him and try again. The goal is for your dog to learn that the tug toy is infinitely more fun when brought to life by you than when dead. Patience is key here, especially with inveterate hoarders.

Before playing tug-of-war.

Put the release on command.
Decide on a release command such as “Out,” “Give,” or “Let go.” Before getting your dog excited about playing tug for the first time, practice some low-key exchanges with him. The sequence is:

1. Give the command to release
2. Your dog releases
3. Give a food reward
4. Give the command to re-take

If your dog doesn’t take the tug toy in his mouth to begin with, practice the exchanges anyway. Give him the toy (put it down in front of him) and then take it back, give the reward, and then replace the toy. Rehearse dozens of reward-for-toy exchanges. The release should be well trained before you continue with the game. (If your dog becomes possessive about toys, call us for advice).

If your dog grabs the toy and runs away, instead practice the exchanges without completely letting go of the toy. The important thing is that your dog experiences having something taken away, getting a reward, and then having the thing presented to him again.

If your dog won’t let go of the toy with a bit of encouragement, try first having him sniff the food treat. Once this has worked a few times, hide the treat and try again. If your dog is reluctant to release, reward every exchange until he releases without hesitation on the first command every time. Eventually, getting to take the toy again will become the reward for releasing on command, but using food early on helps break your dog’s focus on the toy. Experiment with a variety of different food treats if your dog is very reluctant to part with his tug toy.

Every game has penalties.
During actual tug-of-war games, apply the following penalties:

A 30-second time out. For any failure to release the tug toy, stop play and leave the room for 30 seconds.

End the game. For a game misconduct like grabbing your clothes or your hand with his mouth, stop the game altogether.

When your dog knows, loves, and is hooked on tug-of-war, ending the game abruptly is by far the most potent motivator against rule breaking.

The 4 tug-of-war rules.

1. Your dog has to release the tug toy on command.
Of course, you have thoroughly trained the release command, so any failure to comply should result in a time-out penalty.

2. One tug toy only—and the game only happens when you say so.
Designate a tug toy as the one-and-only tug toy, reserved for this game and nothing else. Then decide on a take command like “Get that rope!” This rule prevents your dog from misfiring in day-to-day life: you don’t want someone innocently picking up a tug toy and being enthusiastically jumped by your dog and you don’t want to have him grab some other thing you are holding because he thought he heard the command.

The easiest way to train this rule is to practice it while playing. If your dog goes for the toy before you have invited him, give a No Reward Mark (“Oh! Too bad!”), and do a time-out followed by an obedience break (see next rule). Then invite your dog to take the toy.

This rule infraction is extremely common in tug-of-war games, so don’t sweep it under the rug. If your dog goes for another retake before being invited, i.e. makes the same mistake twice in a row, end the game.

3. The game stops often for obedience breaks.
Tug-of-war is one of the great recyclable rewards for obedience training. Alternate back and forth between the tug game and obedience to spot-check your control over your dog during the game and to teach him obedience when he is excited and distracted. Every initiation of the tug game is a potent reward you can use to select a particularly nice obedience response. Your dog will try fanatically hard to improve his obedience to get you to restart the game. What’s more, through repeated association over time, the two activities will blur in your dog’s mind, eventually making him love obedience training.

4. Zero tolerance of sloppy jaw control.
Your dog will sometimes make contact with your hand or other part of you by mistake. Sometimes he might even latch on to you or your clothing as though you were a tug toy. Don’t let this go unnoticed. Screech “Ouch!” even if it didn’t hurt and abruptly end the game. This is game misconduct every time. Dogs can control their jaws with great precision if given a reason to do so.

With this rule you not only remind your dog of the sensitivity of human skin and the great necessity to keep his jaws off people at all times, you have also trained this while he is excited, which is where sloppy jaws are most often a problem.

That’s it. Now have fun with it.
If your dog isn’t breaking any of the rules, let him get as excited as he wants. This includes head shaking, strong tugging, and growling. (But maintain the rules through constant practice and testing.)

The Bicon Frise


A charming little puffball, the Bichon Frise aims to please and loves being the center of attention. They are small, sturdy dogs with loosely curling double coats consisting of a textured outer layer lined by a fine, soft and silky undercoat, making them practically hypoallergenic. Bichon Frise dogs are typically all white, but can come in cream, apricot or gray variations as well. Their tails curve over their backs. Featuring a merry disposition, the Bichon Frise breed makes delightful and entertaining companions. They are sensitive, affectionate and gentle-mannered. They are very playful and amusing, making them an ideal dog for children that also get along well with other pets.




Bichon Frise puppies and dogs get along well with practically everybody. They are charming, energetic and love to please their masters. This breed does well with children, the elderly and the disabled. Bichon Frise puppies and dogs can be difficult to house train but they have a self-assured temperament and highly intelligent mind that will eventually grasp the concept. These little dogs do not yap but they are very sociable and enjoy being the center of attention or surrounded by their loving family. They want to go everywhere and do everything with their family and will be easy to live with. With an independent spirit, affection nature and lively disposition, Bichon Frise puppies and dogs are easy to love and seamlessly join the family.


Family pets should frequent a groomer for professional grooming every 4 weeks or so. Bichon Frise puppies and dogs should be bathed every month and groomed between professional visits. Their bodies can be tended to with electric clippers while the rest of the dog should be cared for with scissors. Fur around Bichon Frise puppies and dogs’ eyes is susceptible to staining and requires particular attention. These charming dogs will shed little to no hair and are, therefore, good for anyone suffering from allergies.


Bichon Frise puppies and dogs are fairly healthy. Some common health problems may include epilepsy, autoimmune disease, cancer, skin ailments, blocked tear ducts, bladder problems, cataracts and luxating patellas.


Other than a daily pack walk, Bichon Frise puppies and dogs can achieve most of their exercise through daily play. These little puffballs of energy will continue to play as long as their families are willing and are more than happy to do so. Bichon Frise dogs also enjoy the freedom to walk or romp in open spaces.


As little dogs, the Bichon Frise breed is susceptible to the human induced behavior of Small Dog Syndrome. This occurs when the dog feels as if he is the leader of the pack and in charge of his humans. Bichon Frise puppies and dogs may exhibit a wide range of behavior problems if this occurs, including separation anxiety, snapping or biting, guarding and excessive barking. Be sure to set the boundaries for this little dog and establish yourself as the pack leader. It should also be noted that Bichon Frise puppies and dogs are difficult to house train. Crate training Is more Important for these little dogs because of the housetraining difficulty.


Bichons are great little companion dogs if you don’t mind a dog that will want to be with you all the time.  Some people will run agility with their Bichon Frise which could be an option for people that are looking for a little dog but still want to compete in some kind of an activity.  Here at Turd Herders, we like the looks and personalities of Bichons.  They are a good dog for people that have children and that live in a small house or apartment as well as a larger home.  They are just as happy sitting on the couch, or your lap, as they are running around playing.  If you are going to get a Bichon Frise just be prepared to spend extra time on housetraining. They are very smart and will take to obedience training well.  As with all dogs, consistency is key in training.  Small Dog Syndrome is a very real danger with this dog.  Remember that your Bichon is a dog and treat them like a dog, not a human, and you’ll be sure to avoid this issue.  Contact us with your Bichon training and care needs. Turd Herders, (603) 965-2259.

Out N About With Your Dog

Why bother training for public spaces?
So you can confidently and safely take your dog with you anywhere, and make the experience an enjoyable one for you both.

How to prepare.
Step 1. Think about the types of challenges you are likely to encounter:

• In a pet store: Bins full of goodies, other dogs, people who want to pet your dog.
• An outdoor café: Other dogs and people walking by, food within easy reach, kids running around, people who want to pet your dog.
• In a park: Other dogs, people, running children, trash on the ground, Frisbees and balls, people who want to pet your dog.

Step 2. Decide how you will handle potential challenges. Will you…

• Move away to create distance?
• Use treats as a food lure to recapture or keep your dog’s attention on you?
• Use commands your dog is well practiced at (sit, down, stay, watch, leave it, heel) to help guide your dog’s behavior? Which will you use in each situation?

Step 3. Go on your outing. Actively scan the environment so you can respond proactively to challenges rather than reacting when the distraction is already too close.

After you get home.
Assess how the outing went.

• What did your dog do well?
• What needs extra practice?
• Is there anything you want to do differently next time?


Is it important to socialize my puppy?


What is it?
Socialization is the developmental process whereby puppies and adolescent dogs familiarize themselves with their constantly changing surroundings. It is how they work out what is safe and good as opposed to what is dangerous and not-so-good.

Anything you want your puppy to cheerfully accept as an adult—people of all kinds, animals, things, and situations—you must introduce her to often and in a positive manner in the first 6 months of her life. Then you have to make sure she stays comfortable with all these new things.

But puppies love everything already!
Sure they do. Until the early stage of their development draws to a close. At that point, they become wary of other dogs if they have met too few. And down the road, puppies can become shy or growly around children or strangers, too, unless they have met and enjoyed meeting a bunch of them.

Under-socialized dogs are at much greater risk of developing all sorts of behavioral problems stemming from fear—aggression, agoraphobia, and reactivity towards certain people and animals, for example.

Teach your puppy that the world is safe and prevent behavior problems in the future.

How to socialize your puppy.

• Think about the things your puppy will see every week as an adult: Visit those places, see those people, or experience those things now.

• Help your puppy form positive associations: Cheer and praise her when she encounters something new. Offer a treat whenever possible.

Step 1. If your puppy seems even a bit nervous, move a little distance away, give her treats, and then walk away—anything she is unsure about should be encountered in short bursts.

Step 2. As soon as your puppy seems more relaxed, try again. As she sees or hears the thing that scared her before, start your cheerful praise and break out the treats.

Step 3. If your puppy did not seem nervous with the new thing or acts curious about it after she has been treated, go back and let her investigate a little more. Again, praise and treat.

Here at Turd Herders k9 performance center we offer classes on raising puppies and puppy socialization.  We even occasionally have puppy play groups.  Contact us to find out more.  If you don’t live in our coverage area then contact your local dog training center.



How do I get my dog to stop barking?

Why does my dog bark?  How do I get my dog to stop barking?  How do I get my dog to stop barking when I want him to?  These are just a few of the many questions we get about dogs here at Turd Herders k9 Performance Center. When trying to get a dog to stop barking, it helps to know why they bark

Barking generally falls into five categories:

  1. Boredom barking happens when a dog is left alone often and doesn’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation. Dogs are like kids. If you don’t give them something fun to do, they entertain themselves—often in ways we don’t appreciate. So, step up the doggie workouts and get out the puzzles.
  2. Separation anxiety barking is characterized by constant home-alone barking usually coupled with other behaviors such as house soiling, visible anxiety upon departure and arrival, and destruction around doors and windows. In this case, barking is a symptom of the underlying anxiety, which is what needs to be addressed. Call us right away if you think your dog suffers from separation anxiety.
  3. Barrier frustration barking often comes with posturing such as snarling or baring of teeth. The three most common occurrences are: Dogs left in a backyard too long, dogs in cars, or dogs on leash that would be perfectly comfortable with whatever they are barking at (most often other dogs) if they were off leash.  With very social dogs, more time spent playing with other dogs and less time spent behind a barrier will greatly improve the problem. Not-so-social dogs first need to learn to enjoy other dogs. In the meantime, avoid unsupervised time in the yard or car.  In either case, always give your dog a treat when he sees another dog but can’t say hi.
  4. Demand barking occurs in dogs that have learned that barking gets them what they want—balls thrown, doors opened, dinner, or attention. To curb demand barking, immediately stop rewarding the barking: Ignore your dog or walk away when he barks. Pick times when he is quiet, tell him “Nice quiet,” and pet or treat him. If your dog barks when you work at the computer or talk on the phone, preempt his behavior. Settle him in his crate or on his bed with a toy or stuffed Kong before you sit down to work.
  5. Watchdog barking is triggered by sights and sounds such as passersby, slamming car doors, or a cat on the lawn. Watchdog barkers were sentries in a previous life. Teach your dog to respond to noises by getting a toy or barking once, then coming to find you. Keep blinds closed and don’t put your dog’s bed or his confinement area anywhere near a window or bay door. Crating your dog can be a great way to signal to him that he can take time off from his patrol duties.

To cut down on any kind of barking, give your dog plenty of exercise and arrange for mental stimulation when he is left alone. Feed him using puzzle toys or stuffed Kongs.  If these tricks don’t work, contact your trainer for other ways to keep dog barking to a minimum.

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