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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, first time dog and golden owner here :) my little Winnie is 10 weeks old, been with me 2 weeks. She's very loving but quite chilled out, doesn't take much to tire her out and doesn't play for very long. She enjoys attention both affection and play. Initially she was great at play, approached me readily with her toys and I taught her to play tug and actually had good success with retrieving even at such a young age! She would tug and retrieve soft animals and rope toys, also managed to move onto retrieving tennis balls by playing with two at a time so I didn't have to take one off her. I left the toys out for her to also solo play, and rotated them frequently.

But I recently I read that tug and retrieving toys should only come out when you initiate play, to keep them special and help them understand that they're not for running off with i.e. only for playing with a human, and to only leave chew toys around for solo play. Also to quit while they're still having fun and before they get bored, and to get on with teaching "out" during tug to keep it safe. I started doing these things gradually, but I'm noticing that she's less and less interactive with me, preferring to run off with the toys instead of playing with me. It's really sad to see her disengage like this. She also used to chew her chews right by my side but is now a couple of meters away doing this.

I'm so keen to foster a bond and develop a good tug and fetch to give her a fun outlet as an adult and enjoy playing with her. Is my overprotectiveness of these toys damaging this, could the new rules be causing the breakdown? How big a deal is it to leave all types of toys lying around? Is it really that bad to just call the end of the game when she acts like she's done playing? Am I introducing rules too soon, should I introduce these rules as she gets older and we've already established the gameplay? She's a mellow and low key pup that doesn't have a massive play drive to begin with, I don't imagine she'll see starting and ending games as being in charge. I don't want to be the fun police
 

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You may have confused her by taking the toys away too quickly, so that it seems like a reprimand for having the toy. When she brings the toy to you, tickle her behind her ears or rub her chest for a moment before taking the toy then immediately toss it for her to retrieve or wriggle it in an invitation to tug. You want to wait long enough that she doesn’t feel reprimanded but not so long that she drops the toy. At the end of the game, distract her with praise as you slip the toy out of her mouth then continue to praise her and play with her after you hide the toy.

Also, be prepared for a dip in enthusiasm for retrieving and tug when she’s teething. If her mouth is sore, she may not want to play.

I’d love to see ideas from some of the serious retrieving trial competitors on this forum.
 

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My goldens have always had free access to their toys. It’s never caused a problem for us. With my current golden, I do have a few toys that I keep put away so they’re extra exciting when I bring them out. I also put toys away if she’s being destructive with them. You can have a blast with toys and train at the same time. My girl was going wild over a game of drop it the other day — something she’s usually not too keen on!
 

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Hmmm.... first, disclaimer. I do not play tug with my dogs. I do not think it's good for their teeth, but also I do not want them ever to learn to "growl" at me, even in play. I also do not want them learning to "clamp down" on items when I put my hands on whatever they have in their mouths. I want them to always let me take anything out of their mouth and know/trust that odds are likely I will give it back or give them something better (ie - I have taken bones out of my dogs mouths and rewarded them with bread).

I have two dogs who play tug with each other and mouthy/posture stuff with each other....

And they come to me for love and snugglies. :)

I buy them toys - and general thing is they carry these all over the place, and inevitably take them outside with them. Which case, they are trained to go get their toys and bring them back inside (otherwise, it would drive me nuts going into the bushes and whatnot to find their toys and bring them back in for my dogs).

The only time I do retrieves with the dogs - it's training situations where I can quickly reinforce retrieves and makes sure there is never any time the dogs go off shake the toys around and do other stuff which would cost points in trial/competition situations.


So now to answer your question about what is going on with your dog - it does sounds like she's somewhat learned to play the "keep away" game with her toys and chews because there is no reward for her to bring them to you and or she thinks you will just take them away. Also, she has learned she doesn't have to bring stuff back to you - which is unfortunately the problem that develops when you play retrieves until the dog tells you when she's done.

My take is let her play with her stuffy toys and enjoy her chews.... but also have one or two items which you use only for retrieve training which she is expected to bring back to you - and do set training sessions where it is clearly different from "just playing" time - and always reinforce retrieves (ie - even have her on a long line to keep her from running off on her own with the retrieve item).

And or have a special toy or item you play tug with. Which is never a toy she goes off on her own to play with by herself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Hmmm.... first, disclaimer. I do not play tug with my dogs. I do not think it's good for their teeth, but also I do not want them ever to learn to "growl" at me, even in play. I also do not want them learning to "clamp down" on items when I put my hands on whatever they have in their mouths. I want them to always let me take anything out of their mouth and know/trust that odds are likely I will give it back or give them something better (ie - I have taken bones out of my dogs mouths and rewarded them with bread).

I have two dogs who play tug with each other and mouthy/posture stuff with each other....

And they come to me for love and snugglies. :)

I buy them toys - and general thing is they carry these all over the place, and inevitably take them outside with them. Which case, they are trained to go get their toys and bring them back inside (otherwise, it would drive me nuts going into the bushes and whatnot to find their toys and bring them back in for my dogs).

The only time I do retrieves with the dogs - it's training situations where I can quickly reinforce retrieves and makes sure there is never any time the dogs go off shake the toys around and do other stuff which would cost points in trial/competition situations.


So now to answer your question about what is going on with your dog - it does sounds like she's somewhat learned to play the "keep away" game with her toys and chews because there is no reward for her to bring them to you and or she thinks you will just take them away. Also, she has learned she doesn't have to bring stuff back to you - which is unfortunately the problem that develops when you play retrieves until the dog tells you when she's done.

My take is let her play with her stuffy toys and enjoy her chews.... but also have one or two items which you use only for retrieve training which she is expected to bring back to you - and do set training sessions where it is clearly different from "just playing" time - and always reinforce retrieves (ie - even have her on a long line to keep her from running off on her own with the retrieve item).

And or have a special toy or item you play tug with. Which is never a toy she goes off on her own to play with by herself.
Thanks for this, really very helpful advice 😊 sounds like I perhaps need to take a little more control of fetch sessions and keep them brief, presumably that's ok to be formalised at 10 weeks old? I suppose my next quandary is how do I "play" with her outside of teaching tug and fetch since these sessions will naturally be quite brief given she tires/bores quickly? I don't chase her or roughhouse because I don't want to encourage running away from or biting people.

Edit: I should add that she comes to work with me so we have quite a consistent routine which includes usually 5 short sessions of tug/fetch and skills/trick training each day - at breakfast/lunch/dinner and mid morning and mid afternoon. I'm starting to wonder if I'm overdoing it, I'm trying to make sure she's well exercised and stimulated but perhaps it's too much and the novelty is wearing off. Her enthusiasm for all these things is recognisably less than when she first came home.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You may have confused her by taking the toys away too quickly, so that it seems like a reprimand for having the toy. When she brings the toy to you, tickle her behind her ears or rub her chest for a moment before taking the toy then immediately toss it for her to retrieve or wriggle it in an invitation to tug. You want to wait long enough that she doesn’t feel reprimanded but not so long that she drops the toy. At the end of the game, distract her with praise as you slip the toy out of her mouth then continue to praise her and play with her after you hide the toy.

Also, be prepared for a dip in enthusiasm for retrieving and tug when she’s teething. If her mouth is sore, she may not want to play.

I’d love to see ideas from some of the serious retrieving trial competitors on this forum.
Thanks for this 😊 I've been fussing her for a bit before trading or taking the toy and throwing when she releases what she has. I always distract and trade when sneaking the toys away at the end of the game. I forgot to mention that she comes to work with me and I'm keen to keep her stimulated and exercised so we have total 5 short sessions of tug/fetch and skill/trick training per day. Come to think of it her enthusiasm for all of these things is dropping and I wonder if part of the problem is me overdoing it. I'm unsure how to appropriately play with her outside of tug/fetch, I'm trying to avoid chasing her and roughousing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
My goldens have always had free access to their toys. It’s never caused a problem for us. With my current golden, I do have a few toys that I keep put away so they’re extra exciting when I bring them out. I also put toys away if she’s being destructive with them. You can have a blast with toys and train at the same time. My girl was going wild over a game of drop it the other day — something she’s usually not too keen on!
Thanks for this! 😊
 

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When ours was younger I kept a few toys out, such as kong toys which were rubber and could help with her teething, so she had free access to these. But others I kept back and these were special toys, tug was one of these. So I'd bring out tug and she would get reaaaally excited. We used tug to teach drop using treats as well. Ending play before they get bored with it is good so they keep the excitement. You can also do other things that are fun without toys, such as trick training. We used to just run around the house with her chasing us, and push her around gently with our hands and she loved it. I don't think there's a wrong way to play, as long as they are having fun and still respecting you (ie if biting starts then playing stops). Our girl growls like you wouldn't believe when we play tug, doesn't bother me as she likes rough play and is so gentle and stops as soon as we ask. I agree that when you need to stop tug or fetch play, play without toys for a short while so the game hasn't ended. I don't think there's a wrong way to play and sounds like you're doing great :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
When ours was younger I kept a few toys out, such as kong toys which were rubber and could help with her teething, so she had free access to these. But others I kept back and these were special toys, tug was one of these. So I'd bring out tug and she would get reaaaally excited. We used tug to teach drop using treats as well. Ending play before they get bored with it is good so they keep the excitement. You can also do other things that are fun without toys, such as trick training. We used to just run around the house with her chasing us, and push her around gently with our hands and she loved it. I don't think there's a wrong way to play, as long as they are having fun and still respecting you (ie if biting starts then playing stops). Our girl growls like you wouldn't believe when we play tug, doesn't bother me as she likes rough play and is so gentle and stops as soon as we ask. I agree that when you need to stop tug or fetch play, play without toys for a short while so the game hasn't ended. I don't think there's a wrong way to play and sounds like you're doing great :)
Thanks for this, so many good tips 😊 with tug did you let her win and go off with the toy or keep hold? That's often where it falls apart because she trots off to lie down and chew it. I feel like she should win sometimes so it's not frustrating for her, but if I'm always left sitting on the floor like a fool or running away to entice her and just being stared at, it's not really working out. It's as if the whole point of the game for her is to get possession and leave rather than play. I've tried just tiny 2 second tugs to keep the drive up and make her want to come back for more which works occasionally but frequently she lies down halfway through the tugging still with the toy in her mouth and waits for it all to stop so she can get on with chilling and chewing. When she was little and learning to play with me, she would frequently just take breaks after a few seconds play to sit and chew the toy in my lap. Maybe tug is not a good game for her because she is low drive. She can get really into it on occasion but not consistently.
 

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Thanks for this, so many good tips 😊 with tug did you let her win and go off with the toy or keep hold? That's often where it falls apart because she trots off to lie down and chew it. I feel like she should win sometimes so it's not frustrating for her, but if I'm always left sitting on the floor like a fool or running away to entice her and just being stared at, it's not really working out. It's as if the whole point of the game for her is to get possession and leave rather than play. I've tried just tiny 2 second tugs to keep the drive up and make her want to come back for more which works occasionally but frequently she lies down halfway through the tugging still with the toy in her mouth and waits for it all to stop so she can get on with chilling and chewing. When she was little and learning to play with me, she would frequently just take breaks after a few seconds play to sit and chew the toy in my lap. Maybe tug is not a good game for her because she is low drive. She can get really into it on occasion but not consistently.
Ours always loved tug, i read about letting them win so they don't get frustrated too but if I've ever let go of the tug she brings it straight back as she's not interested in winning, only in the game. So I don't necessarily think you have to let them win, but each dog is different!
Yours is still a little baby so they won't want to play for long anyway, they get distracted and the teeth really hurt them so chewing is probably no.1 on their mind right now! :) tug might hurt a bit too if teeth are starting to fall out (all normal), when they get more stamina and stronger in a few months, you'll be able to tug for longer and you'll probably find them more engaged.
Trick training is a good play alternative, to us it's training but to them it's just fun and they get treats so win win! Also tires them out.
I'd just keep building up the length of play, they'll probably get more interested but some dogs are more play driven than others anyway. Just re-adjust your expectations and expect them to have sore teeth and lose interest in things suddenly - like a toddler.
Watching them grow and change is so fun and I'm so excited for you! :)
 

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You're overthinking things. She's an itty bitty puppy and puppies like to chew on stuff. She's not rejecting you or anything like that.

I play tug, even with (gasp) the bumpers I use for hunt training and gloves I use for obedience. (Not with the ducks I use for hunt training.) I often let them win, usually because I get bored with the game. I don't especially like tugging because I don't think it's fun, but if it's something the dog likes, I indulge them sometimes. Teach an out, but never ask for an "out" when you are pulling. Relax your grip and say "give" or "out" or whatever your word is. When you are tugging, that is a signal to them that it's okay to tug back.

I leave their toys out if the toys are indestructible or they haven't reached the age at which they start destuffing the stuffies and performing squeakectomies on the squeakies. Don't leave the puppy unsupervised with toys or items he can shred or swallow. Very dangerous.
 

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You're overthinking things. She's an itty bitty puppy and puppies like to chew on stuff. She's not rejecting you or anything like that.

I play tug, even with (gasp) the bumpers I use for hunt training and gloves I use for obedience. (Not with the ducks I use for hunt training.) I often let them win, usually because I get bored with the game. I don't especially like tugging because I don't think it's fun, but if it's something the dog likes, I indulge them sometimes. Teach an out, but never ask for an "out" when you are pulling. Relax your grip and say "give" or "out" or whatever your word is. When you are tugging, that is a signal to them that it's okay to tug back.

I leave their toys out if the toys are indestructible or they haven't reached the age at which they start destuffing the stuffies and performing squeakectomies on the squeakies. Don't leave the puppy unsupervised with toys or items he can shred or swallow. Very dangerous.
Thanks for responding, you've got me sussed, I overthink nearly everything. On reflection and a few days experimenting, I realised she is keen to play with me by chasing me etc but as soon as a toy got involved she wouldn't be as keen to come near me. I see this is either early possessiveness or that the game isn't valuable enough to her to warrant giving up the toy. Either way I've spent the last couple of days teaching "give" using food rewards and already she seems to be sharing better and returning toys for me to throw. I know giving up items is a key skill anyway so I'll be sticking to teaching it anyway! Thanks again for your help and sense of perspective 😄
 
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