Tugging: Two Toy Game

On pages 31-37 of Schutzhund Obedience: Training in Drive , Gottfried Dildei introduces the “two toy game” for developing drive in dogs. The video below demonstrates this fast-paced, intense game, which is played with two identical toys. The toys must be identical, or very similar, so that they have equal value to your dog. If you have two different toys, the dog is more likely to run off with the higher value toy.

Important points:

  • As your dog is picking up toy #1, which you have thrown a short distance away from you, whip out toy #2, make some noise, and drag it on the ground away from your dog using short jerky motions to simulate prey.
  • At the exact moment your dog drops toy #1, throw toy #2 away from you and away from your dog. You can mark this moment verbally with a “Yes!” or “Get it!” or with a clicker if you are very good at carrying and using multiple objects in your hands. You will often be slow to realize your dog has dropped the toy; that’s okay, your observation and timing will improve.
  • While your dog is picking up toy #2, run over and pick up toy #1 and repeat the process.
  • Place yourself in the middle of your throws, so your dog has to run right in front of you on the way to the toys.
  • Do not exceed 4-5 repetitions, especially for the first session. This is very tiring for both handler and dog! In the video, my sessions are longer, and you can see how quickly the dogs tire, especially the young border collie.
  • Repeat this exercise in very short sessions (less than 1 minute) in several different environments.
  • The game can be played with two tennis balls, however, it’s more difficult for the handler to see when the dog drops the ball, and it’s hard to make ball #2 look like interesting prey if your dog won’t drop ball #1. Tennis balls also take unpredictable bounces that disrupt the flow of the game.

Troubleshooting:

  • Do NOT throw toy #2 until your dog has dropped toy #1. If they never drop the first toy, then you never throw the second toy. Your dog may come right up to you and chase the second toy you are dragging on the ground, while still holding toy #1 in his mouth. Wait him out, and the moment he drops toy #1, throw the second toy away from you.
  • If your dog drops toy #1, and then you throw toy #2 as you should, but they turn around and go back to toy #1, simply repeat the process.

Leave any questions in the comments section below.