The Tugmutt strategy for working a springpole focuses on a simple idea.
Reward for Tugging
Sounds simple but the spring itself needs to be designed to make this easy and effective.
It is important to understand why dogs enjoy tugging and how you can use that to your advantage.
When you encourage your dog to tug on a springpole they view it as participating in a group activity with their pack.
This mentality and instinct comes from when they had to work together as a team to take down large prey animals.
Taking the animal down was the goal and the reward was getting to eat that day.
It makes sense to tap into this natural instinct to increase motivation, output and gains using the springpole.
The Tugmutt Method relies on this instinct and creates an easy to understand reward system for your dog.
It encourages them to tug as long and as hard as they can which greatly increases the effectiveness of the workout.
Proper Setup is Critical
This tutorial is designed to be used with the Tugmutt Bungee Spring, the larger velcro strap makes it easier to adjust the holding strength.
Hanging the spring at the right height is the most important aspect.
Too high and they will hang with their legs freely swinging or not have enough traction to perform a full body tug.
Too low and their front paws will touch the ground changing the angle from which they tug to more horizontal, this is not a desirable position for starting out.
They will have trouble staying under the spring and might be tempted to constantly let go and regrip or just chew the bite lure.
The effectiveness of this method relies on training them to tug in a consistent manner.
Getting them to do a proper tug over and over and over again is ultimately the goal.
The bite lure is what your dog will be gripping on such as a knotted rope, rubber tire, bite pillow or rag.
The Spring should be hung at a height that when they grip the bottom of the bite lure their front legs are off the ground with both back legs firmly on the ground.
This should give them ample traction and range of motion to perform a proper tug.
At the lowest point of a tug, their front legs should come close to or actually touch the ground.
Now its Time to Work
First build some excitement by using the bite lure to play traditional tug of war.
The next step is to make your dog sit or wait while you hang the bite lure.
Attach the bite lure using the velcro strap but only use enough overlap so it just barely stays up, it should break free and come loose with very little weight.
Command your dog to “get it”
The bite lure should come down right away, praise your dog heavily, let them know that this is the goal of the game.
Command to drop or let go, make them sit and wait while you hang it back up.
This time use just a little more overlap on the velcro so it will take 2 or 3 tugs for it to break free.
Again command to get it and praise heavily when it comes down.
Repeat this scenario a few times the first session, gradually increasing the overlap so it takes longer and longer to pull free.
You really want to keep the first couple sessions short with lots of excitement for getting the bite lure to come down.
You can always add a little more motivation by using the bite lure for fetch or a quick game of tug as a more significant reward in between hanging.
Once you've done this a for a few cycles its time to end the game.
Always Take the Bite Lure Down
Place it somewhere they can’t get it and never let them have long term possession of it since this will negatively affect excitement for the game.
Always end the game before they become bored, leave them wanting more.
Continue this strategy of hanging the bite lure and having them tug on it until it comes down and rewarding for the effort.
You can gradually increase the overlap on the strap until it won’t come down at all and just manually loosen the strap when you feel the time is right for them to be rewarded.
Let them Win
It's important that they are the one that actually causes the bite lure to break free.
If you’ve ever set up a springpole or similar toy before you will have found out that even if they like to use it they will quickly abandon it if you aren't there to enjoy it with them.
That's because the reward for a regular springpole setup is your pleasure at the job they are currently doing, not the eventual praise for getting the bite lure down.
The Bungee Spring outer jacket creates a hard stop when fully stretched that helps slowly break the Velcro's hold.
If your dog can fully stretch the spring then they should be able to eventually break the Bite Lure free no matter how much overlap you use.
By reinforcing that there is an achievable goal for the effort of tugging and a promised reward that they want, you eventually will be able to leave your dog to continue the game when you are not even there.
As long as they can come find you after getting the bite lure down and receive their reward you should be able to leave them alone.
As with any dog training program you have to supply a dog with an appropriate reward.
If you want your dog to learn something quick or do something difficult you have to provide a high value treat or reward.
If your dog is tug oriented, reward them with a quick game of tug o war, if they are fetch motivated then reward with throwing a ball they like or the bite lure itself, if they are food orientated then reward with a high value treat like hotdog or cheese.
Using food treats as a reward can be tricky when first starting out because the smell or even thought of you holding treats can confuse or distract some dogs.
It is not recommended to use treats at first unless they refuse to work for anything other than a food reward.
- Tim Maggs