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Leerburg Dog Training Q&A Archive Q&A on Toys

Q&A on Toys

Q&A on Toys

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  1. What would you recommend for a 10 mo. old male border collie that is an aggressive tugger?

  2. What are some good toys for drive building with my dog? Is a drive building toy different than a training toy?

  3. Is it true that the glue in a tennis ball can destroy a dog's tooth enamel?

  4. What tug toys would you suggest for following Michael Ellis's training system?

  5. Which tug toy would you recommend using with the new Tug DVD?

  6. What is the deal with the food tug, does the dog open the tug during the game to access the food?

  7. What kinds of squeaky toys do you carry? Also do you have any suggestions on anything to help clean my dogs teeth? Any bones or toys?

  8. My girlfriend's dog is left for 9 to 10 hours while she is at work, what do you recommend to help keep him busy? What are your thoughts on rawhide?

1. Question:

What would you recommend for a 10 mo. old male border collie that is an aggressive tugger?  I have 2 tugs right now ---one is the synthetic (indoor fire hose) material that he loves.  It is 1 inch x 12 inches with a handle.  Works well for him and me.  I also have a regular (outdoor firehouse-yellow) material that doesn't work as well.  He will tug with it, but it seems too wide and he slips off of it.  It is a little big for my hand also.  It does have a handle, but sometimes I just hold the stick portion.  It is 2 inches wide and 12 inches long.  Length is right.  I do agility and need to have a toy I can stick in  a back or side pocket while I'm running and training to reward with.  I'm looking for an additional toy that is different to motivate with if he gets tired of the synthetic one---just to change things up.  thanks for your help. 



I use several different tugs for my agility dog as well as a couple of different balls on a rope.

Mini Tug -  I like the leather one.

My dogs go crazy for this fleece tug.

Braided tug is another favorite of my dogs.

The Orbee ball with the rope works well for tugging. Here’s a video from a couple of years ago with one of my dogs tugging with this ball at an agility lesson. I still use that same ball.  It holds up really well (I only let my dogs have their toys during training, they don’t have free access to them).

Roni Ball - this ball is a little bit harder rubber

Winga-a-Ball -  my 12 month old Malinois new favorite ball, it’s really easy to tug with


2. Question:


What are your best drive building toys and are they different than your training toys. I don't like those tugs with a loop on one end because my dog tends to get to close to my hand. I like something that gives more space and distinction from my hand, like a ball on a rope. But this isn't a good drive building toy is it? What do you recommend ?

Thanks a lot,


I use many different toys for my dog, and there is no difference to me or my dog as to what they are. A training toy and a drive building toy are one and the same.

I like to mix it up, so my dog will play with me anywhere, with whatever item I happen to have. My dog should play with me and a plastic cup or pine cone if that's what I happen to have. Obviously, I'd rather use toys but my point is that if you get your dog used to playing with many different items it will become less about the toy and more about the interaction with you.

Also, it's a matter of training and how you present the tug as to how your dog targets it. This is going to be covered in detail in the newest Michael Ellis video. If the dog is getting too close to your hand, then you may be presenting the toy incorrectly. This will be released in the next several weeks, The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog.

Some of the toys I use regularly are the following: but my dog may be more engaged with me than your dog is with you so your experiences may vary from mine.

Jute Rolls
Fire hose Tug
Flat Leather Tug
Mini Tug

I hope this helps.

3. Question:

Is it true that the glue in a tennis ball(that holds the fuzz on) can destroy a dog's tooth enamel?  My yellow Lab is a serious ball retriever at 3 1/2.  Are those Chucker balls (orange and blue, made in China) safer?   


Yes, I use the rubber chuck it balls for playing with my dogs.  I do not use regular tennis balls. Chuckit!

Another Question:

I bought some rubber chuck it balls.  My yellow Lab Jade prefers the tennis balls.  Are they bad because of this new information about the glue holding the fuzz on destroying tooth enamel? Thank you.


The information about tennis balls being abrasive to the teeth isn’t new.  We’ve been telling people about it for 9 or 10 years. 

My dogs prefer many things that may not be in their best interest, but it’s up to me to make decisions for them.  I don’t give them the choice.  Only offer the rubber balls, and I’m sure she’ll be fine.   

4. Question:

Hi Ed:

Dean Campbell here - long time since I talked to you. I bought Kato vom Leerburg from you years ago was a great dog. Thanks.

Anyway, my wife has a 13 month old working line GSD male. She is using Michael Ellis approach to dog training, got the 1st DVD from you, will get the second when released.

She want to get some tug toys to use with that training, do know what tugs Michael or you would suggest for his style of training.

She is planning to attend a two week training with him first part of next year and want to have the right gear for the classes.

Thanks for you time and for putting out DVDs of Michael Ellis into production.



Choosing a tug for your dog is dependant more on your dog and the strength of grip, than anything.

I'll throw out a few favorites of mine, I think it's important to have the dog biting a variety of surfaces so they don't start favoring one specific toy.

Jute rolls
Mini tugs
Fire hose tug

I also really like the bite pillows and wedges for playing with my dog. They aren't really great for an obedience reward (too big) but I find that I can practice some of my footwork and tug skills with these first and then go
to the smaller tug I use for obedience.

I hope this helps.


5. Question:


I'm about to order Michael's newest DVD. I have an 18 month old Golden. Which tug toy would you recommend. I'd like to order both simultaneously and save with the free shipping!


I actually recommend a variety of tugs, for a number of reasons.  One is that I don’t want my dog to be fixated on only one biting surface.  I want my dog to tug equally well on jute, leather and linen.  The other reason is that without meeting your dog and seeing his biting style, I can’t know which type of tug is going to be easiest for him to bite and hold on to while he’s learning to play with you.  here is a link that has some of my favorites.  The synthetic is usually easiest for beginning dogs to bite.

I hope this helps.

6. Question:


What is the deal with the tug with food inside? Does the smell of the food make the tug more appealing? Is the dog supposed to open the tug during the game to get the food?

I assume the food can not pass through the leather like a permeable membrane/osmosis.

Thank you for the help,


These tugs are used to entice dogs who have high food drive, but little to no drive to tug.  You stuff it with something the dog especially loves and then if the dog puts his mouth on it at all, you mark and reward the dog by opening the Velcro and giving him some of the food from inside. Basically, you teach the dog to tug to get a food reward.

I would probably not ever do this with a dog I wanted to do biting sports or real protection work with but I’ve seen it used with pet dogs and agility dogs with success.

7. Question:


I am looking for a couple of things that I am having a hard time finding and I wanted your opinion. First my adult dog has a very strong drive for squeaky toys but any squeaky I buy him he destroys in about 15 seconds, because most squeaky toys are for small dogs and are made pretty poorly. I was trying to find something that squeaks and that would hold up a little better. The ideal toy would be just like one of your tugs that squeaks. This also would not be a toy that he is aloud to have all alone, there are very few toys he is aloud to have alone because he destroys most toys very quickly. So if you know of anything like this that would be great.

Also do you have any suggestions on anything to help clean my dogs teeth? Any bones or toys?



We have this ball with a squeaker in it, it's fairly heavy duty (although not indestructible).

The Flappy toys squeak (EXCEPT the Floatie water toy).

We don't sell squeaky tugs for the simple reason that when we use tugs in our training, we don't want the dog munching all over it to make it squeak. We want the reward from playing tug to be the game with the handler, not the squeaking.

As for teeth cleaning, we use beef knuckle bones we order from our butcher and elk antler chews. One of the easiest ways to improve your dog's dental health is to feed a species appropriate diet (i.e. NOT kibble).

Here is a Q&A section on raw feeding.

I hope this helps.


8. Question:

Hi Ed,

I've been reading through your web site and couldn't find anything on dogs chewing rawhide bones. I have searched other web sites and find good and bad articles regarding rawhide. My girl friend has a 1 year old small mixed Terrier dog and he loves to chew things. 

I'm trying to find answers to a couple of questions and was hoping you could help. The dog is left alone for 9 or 10 hours while she is at work. What do you recommend for this? He likes to chew rawhide sticks. The sticks keep him occupied when she is doing dishes, bills etc...  Please let me know if you can help.

Thank you,


I’m not a fan of rawhides, first of all because the dogs learn it’s fun to tear them up (which can reinforce destructive behavior). They also can be treated with dangerous chemicals that are toxic to dogs.

I like to give them chew toys or items that are safe, free from dangerous ingredients. 

For small dogs or pups, bully sticks are a huge favorite.  Big dogs love them too but they are pricey for a big dog. 

Elk antlers are popular with my dogs, and the everlasting treat toys are a hit here too.

Interactive toys are great for dogs who are left alone too. Our dogs especially love the Bob-a-Lot. You can see it and some of the other toys I mention on this page.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes

$25 off Michael Ellis 3 Day Workshop and Raising Your Puppy with Michael Ellis, and $15 off The Foundation of Puppy Bitework with Michael Ellis, good through Thursday, August 6, 2020 at 11:59 PM CT