Mikolaj Synowiec
Mikolaj Synowiec

Iron Jaws

How to teach your dog to love toy play!

course has started
1 August 2021



Previous editions

June 2021

April 2021

And 19 more

Next editions

November 2021

More TBA

What can you expect to learn:

  • Basics of good training session- when it comes to toy play, we often fail at the basics, and we get frustrated because of the lack of progress. We emphasize learning how to approach things not directly related to toy play itself, like acclimation, strategies for engagement, and focus on the foundation for effective learning. These carryovers to any behavior but are especially important with toy play.
  • How to start to play with your dog- one of the most influential things about toy play is a good start. Many people put a lot of attention into learning how to play but forget to consider starting it. The effective beginning can change the look of a whole play. 
  • Game rules – 3 crucial principles of a good toy play that apply to every strategy. An easy example is the chess game. You have regulations that cover how each piece can move, but it’s up to you what strategy you will take. Similarly, some things have to be done to have a good toy play, but besides that, you have endless ways to play.
  • How to be your best teacher -Learning strategy. We discuss how you can analyze your progress and adapt to create a game best suited to you and your dog.
  • Tugging strategies-we explore some toy play strategies you can use and modify in your play.
  • Myths- Unfortunately, there are many myths about tugging. We cover many misconceptions and always try to understand how and why we do things. 

Who is this class for?

If you ever thought, “my dog doesn’t like to play with the toy,” or you struggle to get started, this class is for you! We cover the concept of engagement, how toy play works and how to build it from scratch. No matter if you just want to have additional fun activity in your daily life or you need it for sports practice. 

So often, I see teams that get angry when they practice. No progress, they don’t know what is wrong, they try so hard, and it doesn’t work. This doesn’t have to look this way. Even if your dog is not a “born toy player’, you can have a great deal of fun learning this together.

Why should you play tug with your dog?

Tugging is my favorite activity of all time. It has so many benefits:

First of all, if you do it right, it’s an excellent activity to build a strong relationship with your furry friend. I believe that part of the reason why so many people I know that are a part of dog sports have such a deep connection with their dogs compared to most typical dog owners is working together, learning, and playing. Toy play offers you the opportunity to spend time where both sides actively seek to understand each other. It’s so often much more than a walk where you are just next to each other. In my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to get to know your dog on a deeper level.

It’s also a great outlet for dogs. If you go to a shelter and ask what is one of the most common reasons for giving up their dogs, one of the things you will hear is biting. “He runs after my kids and bits their ankles,” “she chews on every piece of furniture we have,” and so on. Why do those things happen? Well, dogs aren’t like humans; they need to move around and fulfill their needs and drives. We fail to provide our dogs with a way for fulfilling their needs that is not a problem for us and then blame them for the resulting problems. Toy play can finally give dogs to satisfy their desire to chase, run, and bite in a non-destructive way. 

If that didn’t convince you to start playing, I have one last thing that may do that… Physical health and mental well-being. It’s not a mystery that movement is essential for our health when it comes to people. I would say that it’s even more important for dogs. I prepare many dogs for the Frisbee competition, and one side of this training is physical preparation. Up to this day, I didn’t find any exercise that has more profound benefits on a dog’s body than tugging!

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Reviews for this course

Sheri Morrissey
2019-10-11 19:20:54


I really loved the course because I left with a few important pieces of information:

1) on the written homework I had much more trouble doing the ABC’s and correctly giving examples of the quadrant for punishment/reinforcement than I thought I would. I felt I had a great understanding of them already but found out that’s an area where I needed some work because i couldn't easily come up with examples. If I understood it as well as I thought I did it should’ve been easy!

2) I loved the very specific details you gave me. Two examples From several you’ve given me: when he faces me once I’ve released the toy that is the time to back up and not before when he’s looking away/still headshaking. The timing of when to release toy ie after 3 headshakes release the toy, etc. I think these kinds of details really helped improve our tug game and will continue to do so now I am now aware of what to watch for in his behaviors in the tug game and what to do in response.

3) I liked the demos you did for the one and 2 handed presentations for me. I will continue to work on them. This is the one big piece of tug I didn’t get smoothed out in class but I’m confident I will be able to. I tried to record a session this am but managed not to hit record or something! I’m now at the airport heading out to pick up my new puppy so I won’t have another chance to record a session in this class.

4) when I came into class I really didn’t understand why Pirate lost his grip on the toy so often when we played but I quickly learned several thing I was doing to make that very difficult for him: when I bend his neck not his whole body, when I add too much vertical height for the toy making Pirate’s gripping the toy much harder. When I back up quickly or too many big steps back esp when I’m also adding vertical toy movement.

5) there has been a decrease in the number of times Pi takes the toy to ground to chew. I now realize it is often when we’ve lost good behavioral momentum when that happens. I know to really look at the previous moments of tug to see what caused his willingness to play to decrease. I also need to remember to keep the sessions short enough so he doesn’t get too tired and also to make sure I don’t overstrain/overplay— if we’ve trialed for a weekend he really is a dog that needs a couple of days off.

Suggestions, etc:

—In the last lectures 10/7 I found to be a little less clear for some reason — just a harder read and understand the examples clearly BUT I finished each lecture still understanding the point being presented

—I would’ve liked to see additional video examples with some of the lectures or just other dog-handler teams showing a slight variation or their interpretation of each lecture (some lectures obviously didn’t need any videos but were just things to think about— I get that). I think the extra examples showing other teams would be cool— maybe from other teams who have previously taken this class if they were ok with their videos to be used. I’d be totally fine if you used any of mine— honored in fact!

It would’ve been fun to have some classmates in premium to watch as well but this really couldn’t be helped as you can’t control that part.

Well about to get boarded onto the plane so gotta wrap this up.

Thank you for a great class and I’m really glad I took it. I think this class is a pre-requisite to the Intro to Frisbee class I also took at the basic level. I’ll need tug for that sport and this class helps make sure that piece is in place so I can use it as reinforcement.