Thursday, March 31, 2011

Save the hands

My poor hands! They are battered and bruised from playing so much tug with my puppy. The blame is all mine, but I stand by my approach.

Tangle has been really bad about catching my hand along with the tug toy. But, here is why I haven't really trained the "don't get the hand" yet.

Tangle has been a good tugger, not an awesome tugger. He clearly loves the game, but doesn't want to hold on for dear life. I, on the other hand, want him to hang on once he has grasped it. Early on when I would end the game for a second or two when he caught my hand he would stop playing. He still does to a degree. Tug is such a great game for agility, distraction, and fun that I didn't want to train the tug out of him.

I have from time to time stopped the game for a pause, and then started when he let go of my hand. He always shy's off. I never say a word, just stop playing. Testing the water's from time to time, but I always see the hesitation begin.

I have tried the squirrel frisbees, long tugs, big knot tugs, he always "chokes up" and gets my hand.

So, last night I went on a mission to make a toy that might help protect my hand. I went to Petsmart and got a rope toy that had two tennis balls with holes in them. I decided to adapt my usual design for a tug and incorporate the tennis ball as a bigger marker of what end is mine and what is his. I am hoping that grabbing onto the tennis ball is not quiet as fun as the polar fleece tug.

In order to make sure the toy had huge value, I played with it last night, not allowing him to have it, this morning we did restrained recalls to the toy, and then, finally tug with the toy. He does love it. But then he loves all toys.

I think that I had some mild success with it. He does recognize that the tennis ball is on the toy, he doesn't really want to grab it while he tugs, but he did catch my hand when he tried to choke up. However, he does try to stay on his side of the toy!

I think that for now this toy is a keeper and I might be able to train him to stop making mince meat of my hand and still have fun tugging.