The word “tug” is used a lot in our house.
Do you think she’ll tug? Why won’t she tug? Hopefully she’ll tug. Maybe she’ll tug if we do this. She had better learn to tug. If she doesn’t start tugging soon are we going to flunk out of agility? They should offer tug classes. I hope no one notices if she doesn’t tug. I just don’t understand why she won’t tug! It is okay to tug this way?
And on and on and on.
For those that don’t know, tug toys are the preferred method of reward in agility. The act of tugging gets the dog more aroused and helps produce a higher drive. Food tends to slow a dog down, which is the last thing you want on a course. Unless you have a Shiva, I should add. A meteorite wouldn’t slow a Shiva down. The earth splitting in two pieces wouldn’t slow a Shiva down. There are other reasons, though, for using a tug toy instead of a food reward even if speed isn’t one of them.
Since we started taking agility classes over a year ago, we have been working very hard on getting Shiva to tug outside the house. So far, no dice. And before you start offering loads of great advice believe me when I say this, we have tried everything. We even have a wonderfully expensive tug toy in which we insert food into a pouch. She eats the food but she could care less about tugging with it in class. Those last two words being key.
This all completely baffles me. I mean, just the other day I took the below video. Does this look like a dog with zero tug drive?
I didn’t think so.
There are a few explanations for this and all of them are most likely my fault:
A. The first day of classes I probably tried using a toy as a reward for completing a behaviour. Shiva probably looked at the toy like she had never seen such a useless object in all her life. I probably threw her a couple treats instead, thus completely eradicating any value the toy could possibly have.
B. Last summer during our outdoor classes Shiva discovered a whole new world of rewards. The self-reward. Her favourite way to self-reward is to run away and steal food from other people’s bags, cars, houses, and mouths. If I don’t offer her a reward she likes, this is what she will do. Our creative trainer suggested we use a giant bag of our own filled with goodies as Shiva’s thrown reward at the end of a sequence to hopefully curb this behaviour. It curbed it all right and apparently there is no going back.
C. She thinks it is hilarious to torture us this way.
D. All of the above.
Despite what I’ve learned from years of experience with multiple choice exams, I’m sticking with D.