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DVDs & CDs Michael Ellis The Power of Playing Tug w/ Your Dog
The Power of Playing Tug w/ Your Dog
Based on 13 reviews

The Power of Playing Tug w/ Your Dog

Based on 13 reviews
The Power of Playing Tug w/ Your Dog Cover Art
  • Released Fall 2009
  • 5 Hours, 25 Minutes long
  • Instructor: Michael Ellis
  • Also available as a self-study online course! CLICK HERE to sign up!
  • Immediate streaming access when purchased with Leerburg account
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Leerburg dog training is available in 3 formats:
  1. DVDs
  2. Video on demand
  3. Online courses

Leerburg video on demand and online courses both have instant access that never expire. Video on demand has a "notes" feature that allows viewers to pause the video at any point and create a personal note. Whenever they come back to the video they can see their list of notes, and then can click on any note and the video will start from the point that note was created. Viewers can create an unlimited number of notes.


The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog is the second training video in the Leerburg’s series of dog training with Michael Ellis. This video follows Michael’s the Power of Training Your Dog with Food.

Michael’s opens this video with a lecture on why using toy rewards is a powerful tool in a dog training program. He explains in detail why new trainers should learn “Marker Training” using food rewards before they consider using toy rewards.

Before a tug can be used as an obedience reward the dog must first learn the “Rules of Play.” Those rules are:

  1. The dog must play tug with enthusiasm,
  2. The dog must release the toy when told to out.
  3. The dog must bring the tug back after you release it.

During “Rules of Play” training, the dog learns that just because he “OUTS the toy and brings it back” does not mean the game is over. In fact, during the first stages of training the handler shows the dog the instant he releases the toy the game goes on again.

Once the dog understands this concept, the conflict of over “outing the toy” goes away.

This training teaches the dog that fun with toys comes by playing tug with his handler and not in possessing the toy and playing keep away from the handler.

During this training the dog learns that toys are the handler’s toys and the handler determines when and how the dog is allowed to play with toys.

In this video Michael teaches the mechanics of 10 different tug presentations. He demonstrates how these various presentations are used during engagement games with dogs.

Most dogs included in this video are untrained dogs with handlers new to this system of training. It is important to have someone like Michael demonstrate the correct-form on how to play and then watch new trainers who have never done this work before try it.

Not all dogs like to play tug. Some dogs have never had their play drive developed and some had it squelched by an unknowing handler. Michael addresses solutions to both of these issues. He explains how different sizes, textures and types of tugs effect drive levels in dogs. He explains how to increase prey drive through proper tug selection and presentation.

Michael also explains how to avoid equipment bias in our dogs. Equipment bias occurs when a dog will play with one toy and not others. Understanding size and types of toys will help eliminate equipment boas. Our long term goal is for our dogs to play with any toy we offer.

If you been a student of our video The Power of Training Dogs with Food then you understand what engagement is. In this video Michael will teach you how to get and keep your dog engaged by using tug toys.

During the drive building for this work, you will learn how to teach a second handler to hold your dog on leash (we call this POSTING). You will also learn how to build drive and intensity by intentionally making your dog miss a bite on the tug.

There are right and wrong ways to allow your dog to grip a tug, and there are right and wrong mechanics of how to play with your dog once it’s gripped a tug. It behooves to learn how to safely train your dog in the art of playing tug.

There is a large segment in the video where Michael Ellis teaches 10 different presentation on how to catch a dog on a tug. Those are:

  1. The frontal catch
  2. The catch to the right
  3. The catch to the left
  4. The stationary rear catch to the right
  5. The stationary rear catch to the left
  6. The rear spin catches to the right
  7. The rear spin catches to the left
  8. The presentation from the Place-Position (when do starts between your legs)
  9. The presentation with the right hand from the heel position
  10. The presentation for the left hand from the heel position.

After the handler and dog understand these presentations they need to learn how to introduce distractions during tug play training. Michael is an expert on proofing his training by layering in distractions.

In the video Michael demonstrates that dogs often learn more and learn quicker during their learning phase when worked at lower levels of drive. Once the dog understands an exercise the drive level can be increased. When drive levels increase, both the intensity and speed of the dog performing that exercise will increase.

One of the most important aspects of using tug play as a reward in a training system is to have a dog that consistently and willingly OUTS the tug on command. Training the OUT is a big segment of this video. You will see a number of dogs at different training levels being worked on the OUT. One of the dogs has a serious OUT problem. During this training the dog also learns to bring the tug back to the handler after the handler releases the tug during the play.

It’s not uncommon during tug training to have a situation where the handler is getting his hands bit by his dog. Michael has a segment in this video teaching how to eliminate this.

Michael also talks about playing tug with puppies. When it comes to tug work with puppies it is vitally important to know when to do it, how to do it and when to stop doing it. He explains what not to do when puppies are teething.

What's the difference between this course, the DVD, and the stream?

DVD: 5 hours, 25 minutes (physical copy and immediate streaming access)

Stream: 5 hours, 25 minutes, lifetime access, stream from anywhere

Online Course: 96 videos (312 minutes), text content, discussion board, lifetime access, stream from anywhere


  • 00:03:05 – Introduction
  • 00:09:05 – What Toy to Use
  • 00:14:13 – Tug VS Ball on a String
  • 00:15:52 – Fundamentals of Playing Tug
  • 00:27:00 – Fundamentals of Training the Out
  • 00:31:38 – Teaching the Out From a Toy
  • 00:35:20 – Backchaining
  • 00:37:55 – Using Back Ties to Make Drive
  • 00:39:21 – Why I use a Harness
  • 00:40:30 – When Your Dog Bites Your Hand
  • 00:44:00 – Tell Your Dog When Training Starts
  • 00:46:58 – Training Equipment
  • 01:31:43 – Eye Contact During Engagement VS Focus on the Tug During Presentation
  • 01:37:41 – The Mechanics of Presenting the Tug
  • 02:01:45 – Learning to Give Misses
  • 02:12:14 – Learning to Present the Tug
  • 02:24:05 – Learning Presentations
  • 02:25:37 – Frontal Catches
  • 02:32:44 – Left and Right Presentation
  • 02:43:03 – Spin Catch from the Rear – both sides
  • 02:44:49 – Catch from the Place Position
  • 03:04:50 – Training a Competition Heeling Dog
  • 03:11:10 – Teaching the Out
  • 03:27:37 – Dogs Becoming Possessive of the Tug
  • 04:06:38 – Capping
  • 04:29:07 – Corrections
  • 04:39:08 – Training with Distractions
  • 04:48:41 – Managing Drive
  • 04:58:58 – Avoiding Dog Bites
  • 05:03:04 – Puppies and Tug Work
Bought this product?

I've purchased several of michael's training dvds and while they are all excellent, I feel this one has benefitted me most. I didn't even realize all the errors i'd been making while using the reward tug.
I cannot wait to put my new-found knowledge to use!!!

note: the training dvds have also desensitized my own dogs to the barking dogs on the videos. Since I usually watch them at night, and inadvertantly fall asleep with it playing, my dogs have gotten used to hearing barking dogs all night and now couldn't care less about the neighbor's dogs....didn't expect that one but many thanks.

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So much to learn, so little time!!! Thank you both Ed & Michael for putting together such an informative training tool, which I now need to put into practice, practice, practice.

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Great video! Took one week to turn my Brittany from ho-hum about tug into tug being a major reward. while we still have a few bobbles on the "out" he definitely realizes the game is no fun without me and will reliably bring it back & sit or down or recall just to keep the game going! Another great Leerburg video.

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I am simply amazed at Michael Ellis's training and methods. I have been working with dogs as an owner, breeder, lover, rescuer for 35 yrs and I have not ever found a MORE concise, practical, critically sound method for training dogs. I am floored at his awareness, his respect for and his knowledge of dogs and how they think, and how to get them to respond in a positive way to every thing you might want to train them. We have an 8 mo old Dobie puppy and we have been using Michaels Methods now for months and I find them to be superb! She is responding faster, more intently and better than I have had experience to witness in all these years. I only wish I could attend one of his 2 week intensives to put myself through the paces with his tutoring right there in person.
DO not hesitate to buy any or all of the video's by Michael at any time! Also check out the free streaming video on and catch the snippets of his video's there to see for yourself how impressive they are! Stop all the training you are doing until you have at least seen what's possible with Operant conditioning if you are using OLD SCHOOL 'jerk and choke" methods of training right now... and see how to train your dog the way that they actually LEARN!! amazing.. 5 stars!

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Michael Ellis is a genius on training dogs. He's very detailed and the DVD's have helped in the motivation of my dogs in their obedience routines. Training a dog is about them and me having fun and giving a great performance and this DVD shows how to play with your dog. Go figure 25 yrs ago I would never have thought that to get a good obedience dog you need to play with it. Well you do and this DVD shows you how.

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Michael Ellis is one of the few top dog trainers that not only knows how to talk to dogs, but people too! This DVD teaches you how to play with your dog, and have your dog want to play with you. Add his DVD 'the Power of Training Dogs with Food', and you have the secrets to becoming the center of your dog's universe. want a focused, happy dog? Have a high drive dog you need something to do with? This DVD is the one.

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The video demonstrates how to use tug toys to train your dog and shows the techniques being applied in several different settings and scenarios. It does repeat itself a bit so once you've see the first bit you should have the idea, the other scenarios simply reinforce the lessons.

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My dog is more game/toy motivated than food motivated, and it's helping us build a stronger relationship based around what most motivates him. It's great to work with him using such positive methods!

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I recently purchased your DVD about playing tug with your dog. I don't usually comment on stuff but holy cow... I am totally blown away with my own success. Amazing. In 50 years of dog ownership playing tug has always been a competition between me & the dog and the dog usually won. In just one session... I got my year old lab, Sam, to tug wildly. He would never take stuff in his mouth... he let go after 5 seconds of the toy stopping the game. I'm completely blown away by my own success. Thank you for your good help for people like me who live in the middle of no where & can't access good dog trainers in person.

We all thank you. I have several retired racing sled dogs, not the easiest to retrain... but even they are all getting it and best of all, we are having a blast doing so. So, Michael Ellis... you are awesome and all you folks at Leerburg... you are all awesome as well.

Mary at the Bow Wow Inn in Ontario, Canada

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I learned a tremendous amount from this video and from the Power of Training Dogs with Food. When I purchased the video I had been training my 1.5 year old Mal for about 4 months (she was a rescue). I backed up and used the ME system and now she pays much better attention to me (she's expecting me to play, wanting me to play, activating me to play), she is much more engaged in the exercises and less distracted. I think this video was fantastic. Thank You for making this training available.

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You guys really are the best!!! My e-collar order arrived today! THANK YOU! And I love the leather collars, I just love you guys and Michael Ellis! You have changed our lives for the better.

I got this message from a friend: "Went to watch graduation class in obedience...hmmmm.. OK, they are beginners, I understand, BUT... jeez it was sad to watch. People draging dogs on the leash, "sit, sit, SIT," dog has no idea what's going on... No one was using toys, only food. Hardly any rewards, hardly any 'good boy', just generally NO FUN. I was thinking I wish you were there with Kaz to show them how to heel and how to have fun with a dog."

I wouldn't get messages like this without you guys! You showed me how, when no other trainers could!!! We get complements everywhere we go! Thanks to you guys!!!

I can't recommend you guys enough!!! 

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I recently purchased and watched this video. And I must say I am hugely impressed. I have a young Belgian Malinois who is only moderately motivated by food, but is extremely motivated by toys (tugs in particular). Even after just watching the first chapter of this video, I was able to make huge corrections to the way I play tug with my dog, and was also able to teach the Out in no time. I still have plenty of work to do before I can transition from food rewards to tug, but I am positive that I will get there with the help of the information in this video.

Michael Ellis has a clear and concise way to explain and demonstrate his methods, which made it extremely easy for me to understand and put the methods into action. I anticipate buying many more DVDs from his series in the future. Thanks so much!


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Although I think this is a well made and very informative video and would recommend it to anyone with a protection breed dog. Michael Ellis is an excellent teacher and a fantastic dog trainer. I have a high drive Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and it wasn't until the very end that it was made clear that the chances of ever using tug as reward for or even to build a relationship with this dog are slim to none. I had an inkling and perhaps I should have guessed it on my own but it would be nice if it were mentioned in the video description, rather than in the last 1/2 hour of the footage, that unless you can build the prey drive before the puppy is 16 weeks the chances of getting a soft mouthed dog like a Golden or a Toller to use a tug as a reward is pretty hopeless. As well all the footage is of protection breeds. Perhaps the description of the video should mention that this works best with protection breeds or if that is not the case please include some footage of other breeds using tug as a reward.

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Equipment used in this dvd
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