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Stepping up tug

4495 Views 18 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Bob Scott
I could use input on the following...

So my 9 m.o. pup is about to get through her second Grappy jute tug and I'm wondering what's a natural step up. She will not be formally trained in sporting or PPD bitework anytime soon but she loves tug and hitting the tug and I incorporate it into daily retrieving and obedience sessions. We also do extended tugs that get pretty intense, I guess, in terms of making her hang on for extended durations before I let her win. I use it for concentrated play when I don't have a lot of time to spend with her at certain points of the day.

I wear leather welding gloves but like today, for instance, she can still put quite a shot on my knuckles if she's running up at me and her aim is a bit off. Real estate on the tug is pretty small because I hold the jute itself (not sure if this makes sense, basically, I don't let it hang in the air and I hold it to move it around and get her worked up to hit it).

Would it make any sense to try out a puppy or intermediate sleeve? I'd like to do this just because I think it would be fun for both of us. I think a full-out jute sleeve would be overkill...I ideally want something light that I can fold down in a backpack and carry around to the park, etc with my other dog junk. A big tug would be fine, there's just something appealing about her tugging on a sleeve to me.

I probably sound pretty ignorant, I know there are differing opinions about working your own dog like this and potentially having them see you as a target. Annie's very much focused on the tug, that is the object of her drives, and she's got all the aggression of a Golden Retriever. We follow basic tug rules like this is only done with me, this is only done with me in this particular place, I will let you win but if I say "Out" it's out, etc. She is dead quiet on the tug. Have not had any problems at all with our tug games flowing over into bad behaviors elsewhere.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Edited to add another appeal of the sleeve for me is getting my hands out of the way. She's just a puppy but it's still no fun to take a tooth on the knuckle, welding glove or not.
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I don't see a problem in decoying your own dog if it's in prey... NEVER defense. I have a couple of sleeves here and a leg sleeve that I play with my dog on, n my puppy hangs off my pant legs all day long. The dog is 9 months old.. I would have put the dog on a sleeve months ago as soon as the mouth is big enough to bite on a puppy sleeve. Keep it all play play play, get her used to feeling an arm under the sleeve when she bites, play tug, swing the pup off the ground. Run away with your arm off to the side n let the pup try to bite while you're in motion. Put the pup in a down/stay accross a field 50ft from you then give a "take it" command n get the dog used to running long distances to bite.

I've seen professionals decoy their own dog in prey wearing a bite suit with someone else handling the dog, as long as there's no defense it doesn't matter. Some people don't like the idea of their dog learning to bite the handler... but I don't see a problem, dogs know the difference between real and fake.

Bare in mind, I would never do this with a very defensive dog who associates equipment with defensive behavior since even if you're not using defensive pressure, the dog is still in defense... but for a prey dog, no problem.
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She's never been in defense and I never put her in a situation where she does not have the option to back out if she wants. We either tug in my backyard or when I throw about 100' of poly on her at the park and we mix it in with retrieving and it's always "come and get it if you want it" (she always wants it but she'll drop it for the flying squirrel 95% of the time...that dog loves retrieving).

Thanks for the input, any other feedback? And Mike, any specific brands/types of equipment you'd recommend that I could find on the web?
I've been impressed with's pricing on sleeves, all the sleeves I remember seeing were under $100. And I bought a jute puppy leg sleeve for about $40, great for just playing with the dog... but I underestimated Cujo's biting power because the puppy sleeve hurts like hell when he bites it... so it'll be Lÿka's before too long :lol:

We use's sleeves right now on Cujo and Patrick Murray's dog Jake -- I am not very impressed with them though, the adult sleeve had 2 belt clasps on them that could cause a problem if the dog mistargets and bites em, so we cut them off... the jute puppy sleeve isn't bad, but I find that with a strong dog the adult sleeve tends to bunch up too much, a strong dog that retargets could potentially bite an unprotected part of your arm. Ofcourse, you're talking about a 9 month old puppy, but these are my observations on equipment I've used. The plastic handle at the bottom of the adult sleeve also seems to have come out of the nylon handle so it's becoming a pain to hold onto properly.
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I was going to order some stuff from Goldcoast awhile back but couldnt ever get anyone to answer the phone or call me back....HMMMM..maybe they have caller ID? :eek: :x

What kind of dog is an "intermediate" jute sleeve targeted at? I hate to get a puppy sleeve that Annie would get through quick...she's pretty dedicated on the tugs now...I'd like something that would last a bit and be fun for us, something that would allow her to get a firm grip that would not crunch my forearm. And be relatively portable without a big form-factor...I really don't think I need a full-out competition sleeve with a big bite bar and shoulder protection. I'm totally out of my element here, I have never held/seen a real sleeve outside of books and internet.

Linking to this site as a reference point only, no hurt feelings if you all want to take it down:

Oh yeah, I think I want to stick with jute (?), Bob Scott has me sold on those as a "flossing" device...not sure if the synthetic stuff would offer the same bite surface and give? And would an intermediate sleeve, etc. even have give to it (i.e., would the dog's teeth penetrate in beyond the surface)?

Sorry for the n00b stuff here, i'm in the dark on these topics.
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I have a JN020 Young dog sleeve for Cujo... it's very soft but very thick, so he can feel the decoys arm in it and encourage him to bite harder, without injuring the decoy.

It all depends on how hard your dog bites, and only you know that. I suggest emailing GoldCoast for a reccomendation, give the dogs breed and age and try to guestimate how hard the dog bites somehow, Rodney will give you a good reccomendation, and probably has a good return policy if the sleeve turns out too thin or too thick. He's the one who suggested the JN020 to me, when I was originally looking at something else.
Thanks Mike!
I agree with all that Mike has said. You can also use a jute cover off an old sleeve for now. You will know when to step up. :lol: You put the old cover on and roll the end inside to hold on to. Have Fun, be careful.
Mike, thanks for a few other things.
Woody, I don't know what your goals are but I would get rid of the gloves. Your dog needs to learn to control his mouth around your skin. It will also teach better targeting. Right now, with the gloves, he doesn't need to be careful about his target area.
That's a great point, Bob. I started wearing them because of the line I have her on when we do retrieve/"off leash" ob...public soccer I have 100' of poly that I need to be able to handle as it comes off the spool. I just started using it for tug because as she got bigger and our tug got more focused I'm giving her very little room...only seven or eight inches...for gripping.

I need a bigger tug!
Okay Bob, my dog must have read your post last night or you really are psychic as I have previously claimed...she blasted me straight on the hand this morning from about a twenty foot running/jumping start. I am definitely offering her more target with that dumb welding glove than with my beat-up tiny tug.

What are some ways to refine targeting? I'm getting a bigger tug or sleeve, but how do you all develop precision bites? After I took my shot this morning, I just started holding the tug by the handle to my side and letting her run at it/jump through it/take it and then engage with her a bit as I spin my body around to take out some of the force she's putting through the run.

As far as goals for her go, I don't know yet. I know she likes the tug and I know it seems to drain a lot of physical and mental energy and I think it's awesome to watch a dog engage like that. Those are my reasons right now. She's obviously into remember I'm the guy from the other forum who did super-hard tug sessions through her teething phase :oops: and would come away with a bloody tug and a happy dog thinking I'd done good by her :roll:. I think it's good for her confidence and I think it's in her blood to need this kind of outlet...her pedigree is solid German Schutzhund II/IIIs on both sides back to the 1980s.

I would obviously like to keep doing something that might transition over to sport at some point if I can free up the necessary time to do formal Schutzhund work. PP not in the game plan...I don't want that in my house.
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Woody, there is no real reason to go to a larger tug. I use one that is about 8" long, with loop handles at each end. This is easy to keep in my back pocket and popped out for reward at any time. With a larger tug, he has no reason to becareful about how he hits it.
I also like the two handle tug because it's easier to lock up when teaching the out. With the one handle types, there is to much movement and the dog wants to keep fighting for it.
Since your dog needs targeting work, start with him up close till he learns where he's supposed to bite.
If he hits your hands, you yell "ouch"! and the game stops for a min or so. He'll learn that if he wants to play, he has to be more careful.
I have the Flinks Drive building tape and the Balabanov #2 tape. I prefer the Balabanov tape for covering this type of targeting.
There's all kindsa training aids and equipment you can buy... fact of the matter is... you don't need most of it. It can be useful, but many a dog has been trained without fancy bite wedges and bite bars and 20 different size tugs. I go from puppy bite rag to a small (8"?) tug with a single handle to a sleeve (the first sleeve is a jute puppy leg sleeve that can also be put on your arm if you're careful) and then to a puppy arm sleeve, then step up till the dog's on the suit. At least, that's how I did it with Cujo and that's how I plan to do it with Lÿka -- she will step up alot quicker than Cujo did.
Good feedback, guys, thank you.

Bob, do you keep sleeves out of everyday tug and play? And just stick with two handed tugs? You make a great point about the two-handed tugs...I think the main reason I got into this situation is that I started holding the tug (12", I think) on the body of the tug itself because it was so hard to control with just a loop on one side.
Mike Schoonbrood said:
There's all kindsa training aids and equipment you can buy... fact of the matter is... you don't need most of it. It can be useful, but many a dog has been trained without fancy bite wedges and bite bars and 20 different size tugs.
I think this kind of sentiment is good to repeat. I have spent way too much money on gadget-y stuff. I'm really trying to curb back to just basic stuff that the dog will like that will get used, often.
I also agree with Mike about to many training aids. I use one tug and a kong on a rope for playing fetch. I like the rope because #1 It saves an old man's shoulders when throwing it. #2 I like the interaction of playing tug, even with a game of fetch.
We also do a couple of dumbell retrieves during his daily training but the games starts when he does a formal retrieve with a sit front and a calm grip. THEN he knows the tug games begin.
I don't do sleeve work with my own dog. Nothing wrong with it, IF it's done properly but I'm at club always 2, often 3 times a week. Thunder gets plenty of sleeve work there.
Thunder will also bring me ever stick on the planet but, unless I ask him to, most get ignored. The games are my idea, not his. I probably go overboard with this because Thunder will never be a dominant dog with me. He's very handler soft.
Bob, you messed around with those flying squirrels Mike and I use? They are way easy on the arms, and give really nice action and movement in flight that my dog loves. Plus she can get nutty and give it the "death shake" when she's bringing it back to me.

Great input on sleeves, by the way, thank you.
Woody, as far as sleeve work goes, I know you guys are working on ASR type stuff, and the grip isn't as critical. In schutzhund, right or wrong, a deep, firm grip is what's needed. To many inexpierienced people can mess that up doing sleeve work themselves.
That and inappropriate defence on your own dog are the only reasons I don't like seeing inexpierienced owners doing sleeve work on their dogs. Otherwise I see no problems.
I've seen those squirrel things. Looks like a lot of fun.
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