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August 19, 2013
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Michael Ellis discusses the importance of establishing a relationship with your dog before training. In this short video he discusses the impact a pre-established relationship can have on police dogs prior to training.

August 19, 2013   |   1 Minute, 54 Seconds

Leerburg Q&A
Ask your training question here

Question: My question is regarding playing tug with your pup vs correcting the pup for inappropriate mouthiness when you are not playing. How do you teach the pup to differentiate?

I am a dog lover and dog owner for most of my life. I currently have a 12 year old bullmastiff who I trained myself, and has always been very well behaved. My training methods have come from personal experience (trial and error) and from just about everything I try to get my hands on to read or watch - and Leerburg has been invaluable. 

My question is regarding playing tug with your dog as a puppy vs. correcting your dog for being "mouthy" when you are not playing tug. Obviously, you don't want your dog opening your mouth to your hand (even playfully) or a guest who wants to play with your puppy... What is the best way to differentiate for your puppy the difference between tug and encouraging your dog to bite and grip vs. playing with an open mouth? 

Thank you. 

Cindy's Response:

There is a difference between time to play and the general rules and expectations we have for living with our puppies.

We use a system to let them know when we are ready to play, with verbal cues like “ready” and “all done” when we are finished.  There is a clear beginning, middle and end to a play session.

For general life with our puppies, we control all the interactions with a leash, exercise pen and crate. We cover this in our videos Your Puppy 8 weeks to 8 Months and Living with your Puppy & Establishing Pack Structure.

I would also recommend reading our biting puppies article.

Cindy Rhodes


Thank you.  

Your website is invaluable, thank you.

For more questions on this topic, see our Q&A on Puppies.

We get a number of Q&As every week, if you would like to read this week's Q&As, click here and check out the 'Recent Questions' section!

Have a question for Ed & Cindy? Try the Leerburg Search Engine. This search engine was written specifically for Leerburg by our in house IT manager. Our search engine is specific to Leerburg and only searches and the Leerburg web forum. If you can't find the answer to your question by using our search engine, you can email Cindy here at Leerburg at If you have your spam filter on, make sure you set it to receive our replies!!!

Customer Comments

On Leerburg's "How to Break Up a Dog Fight" Article

Hi there - I wanted to tell you that about a year ago I read your article on breaking up a dog fight. We live in a rural part of town, no fences, lots of dogs. So I put a leash in our golf cart, my in-laws golf cart, in our work truck, in the shop - essentially, everywhere. Last night my dog was attacked by another dog. I was alone (and 3 months pregnant). I tried several things to break up the fight - including shoving a flowing hose down the other dogs throat. Then I thought - what good is that going to do? As soon as he lets go, they will just bite again. Then I remembered this article. I calmly took the leash off of our golf cart, wrapped it around the hind quarters of the other dog, then proceeded to pull my dog out of the jaws of the other. I got them separated and was able to get my dog out of there. He had a dislocated jaw (which he fixed himself) and several gashes. But I wasn't bitten and the fight was stopped. I wanted to say THANK YOU.

The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers
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