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Toys and Tugs

Toys and tugs are used in obedience training to help motivate and maintain an energetic and willing picture. They can also be used to prepare the dog for the sleeve.

When you have a new puppy, a small, soft tug or a piece of leather will provide an excellent diversion to teach the puppy that biting toys is more desirable than biting hands and clothes. Many working-bred puppies are very mouthy, I have been known to keep tugs in all rooms of the house! Good tugs for puppies are around 1 inch in diameter and 6-10 inches long, and made of stuffed leather or fire hose. The tug should not be too stiff as the puppy will enjoy being able to squeeze and get his teeth into the tug. Puppies seem to enjoy fluffy toys and squeaky toys a great deal too. Some of these toys are not tough enough to last once the puppy gets adult teeth, and they should never be left with the puppy without supervision.

You can also begin to use a specific toy to play with the puppy that will be used later as a reward in obedience. This is a matter of handler and dog preference, some people like to move to larger tugs, others prefer balls. Kongs and hard rubber balls on strings are also very popular training rewards with both dogs and their handlers. With regard to balls, be sure to get a large enough diameter so that the ball cannot get lodged in the dog's throat, a well fixed rope is also a good idea. Many dogs enjoy tennis balls but there is some evidence that they can wear teeth down.


Larger tugs and rags are often used to begin protection training. Tugs for this purpose are often around 3 feet long and made of the same jute as sleeves, again soft tugs are good to start with so the dog gets satisfaction from the bite. Rags are often made of leather and are proportional to the pups size and strength. I have several thicknesses and sizes. Fingers can also be cut in to the end to increase the attraction as the rag is moved. A line should be firmly stitched to one end of the rag.

Recreational toys for Shepherds and other large destructive breeds can be useful for keeping them occupied during the working day. Black Kongs are tough and usually well-enjoyed and can be stuffed with goodies and frozen to provide longer-lasting entertainment, alternatively a raw marrow bone can provide several hours of gnawing and nutritional marrow. There are also specific treat-dispensing toys available but make sure that whatever you choose, you make sure to supervize the first time you try it out to ensure that the toy / bone will stand up to the chewing and that the dog doesn't destroy it and swallow the pieces.

Most of the dogs I know, go crazy for Jolly Balls, they are not indestructible but they can last for a month or two or maybe more if they are not used every day.