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Choosing a Tug Toy or Prey Item

There is a lot of controversy on this task and I hope I can help clear that up a little. The first thing you need to know is that, it won’t be helpful to have your dog lock onto an item that is not practical, too big, non durable and or dangerous.

This means that, say your dog likes to play tug with you and a deflated soccer ball perhaps, throw out that soccer ball now. It is too big and highly impractical.

Your dog might also love those squeaky balls, the squeak device has been known to come out, when it does the dog may swallow it and this may cause a major bowel restriction and or kill your dog. I also don’t like to use the squeaky toys to get drive out of a dog, it isn’t practical in most disciplines and it teaches the dog to get hyper over this noise, which may be replicated in a small animal or child and this may turn bad.

It may be easier to get drive with a squeaky, but let’s not take the easy road because it may be fraught with risk.

Plated rope toys can be lots of fun, we could sell these but we don’t. I wouldn’t say its common but it does happen, the ones made from cotton or nylon thread can end up with a loop pulled, this loop can get caught behind your dogs tooth and pull out the tooth during tug games, or capture a piece of the tongue and cut it off. Other times the thread breaks off and gets stuck between the dogs tooth and gum, this isn’t easy to see and often ends up with a gum infection.

[success_box title="Note"]I personally have seen each one of the above circumstances occur and they have also been reported back to me through our Distance Learning packages too often, so I don’t recommend this type of toy. I have seen quite a few of these toys but of course not all of them, if I am sent one that has somehow addressed these risks, we will reassess it and alter this article.[/success_box]

We test equipment regularly for manufacturers and give our opinions on them, this is a free service, there is no excuse for a manufacturer not to have us test their tugs.

The ball!


The ball size is very important, if the ball is too small, it can be sucked down and swallowed by the dog, this will likely be the end of your dogs’ life. If the ball is too big, it causes jaw pain which turns the dog off the game.

Many dogs love to chase a ball; this is a learned skill that dogs can grow to love. There is nothing wrong with it either but it can hinder training in drive with your dog because the dog learns to gain reward outside the close proximity of the handler, this is an issue if it is the only way the dog learns to win the prey. Tennis balls have also been found to destroy a dog’s tooth enamel, so we don’t use those at all.

If your dog loves a ball, then by all means give him one and throw it too if you have no desire to train in drive. If you do want to train in drive, this can be done with a Ball on a Rope, like our Orbee Tough and Herm Sprenger Balls. If you don’t want to train in drive and just want to throw the ball, give up on the Tennis ball and try our Orbee Tough Fetch and Woof Balls.

They are super bouncy, will not decay the tooth enamel and will also out last a tennis ball x 100!

Oh and they smell great too!


The Tug Toy!


Just like with a ball, size matters! There is not so much risk of swallowing the tug toy but too small and the dogs teeth can clash or you can be teaching the dog that it will only be biting smaller items, which may result in delaying your training if you’re training for one of the biting sports.

If the item is too big, the dog will struggle to capture it and then not want to play.

So to choose a size here is the rule of thumb I use.

I don’t go any bigger than will just slip into the dog’s mouth when he is panting.

We have tugs that are made from Leather rags, which are 3mm think, this will fit into any dogs jaw, we have ¾” inch thick tugs, 1, 1.5, 2 and 3 inch tugs but you must get it right for your dog.

See images below to see what I mean.


Tug Toy Surface

There are many different surfaces that can be used, Linen, Leather or various types of synthetics and Jute. Each one if these has a different purpose and will produce a different result.

You need to understand that the surface you use will make a major difference to many dogs and that no matter how well your dog bites the surface you have chosen, you will need to vary this surface regularly once you have built some usable drive.

Read on to see the various surfaces…



This has been around a long time, we no longer use Jute to manufacture tugs, whilst it can be durable the surface feel turns many dogs off, so it isn’t something we use but you certainly can use it.



We have a big range of synthetic tugs, from the small 1” x 8” to the very long, thicker tugs. These are great because they are super durable, have a good feel to the dog, are harmless and they float. We commonly use Synthetics when we have a dog with great drive, but is a bit possessive of the tug and doesn’t release it well.

Best for: -

  • Drive work
  • Training the out
  • Tugging where you don’t need great grip from the dog

Tug firmness is: Hard

French Linen


Would have to be the best all round material to use, French Linen is the highest quality heavy duty linen there is. This is what good bite suits are made from. Very durable, builds super grip and drive in just about any dog.

Best for: –

  • All types of dog sports
  • Building Drive in your dog
  • Dogs with a good out
  • Tugging games that make use of grip

Tug firmness is: Medium



Leather is the natural prey surface; it is animal hide. We have a range of leather tugs that will suit any application. Leather is the way to go for your more driven dogs as the tugs are soft and easy on the dog’s mouth but durable. It is also a great way to vary your biting surfaces.

We also have Leather bite rags and Flirt Poles that have a leather rag on the end plus of course a full range of sizes and handle types in leather tugs.

For most sport or working dogs, leather is the premium choice.

Best for: –

  • All dogs except those with very soft mouths
  • Building Drive and Grip
  • Working with harder temperament dogs

Tug firmness is: – Soft

Throw items


People for many years have been known to throw sticks for their dogs; this is a very dangerous activity. Dogs can get a piece of stick stuck between their teeth, swallow pieces and of course be stabbed by the sharp end of the stick in the chase.

If you like to throw sticks, try one of our Hurley toys which act the same way but are very durable and are safe! They can also be used very effectively to train the dumbbell retrieve.

[icon_alert]Dogs can lose eyes and worse from chasing sticks!


So to complete this article!

The right size tug is a must!

Use a tug or ball that is easy for your dog to bite.

Different surfaces produce different results in different dogs!

Dogs that have huge drives will get away with just about any tug, dogs with less drive will need the softer tugs, lowest drive dogs need the softest French linen tugs.

Vary the surface you used with your dog as you progress through drive work!

Well trained dogs will bite any surface, it is just like distraction training, it is a must for all dogs training in drive.

Use a safe tug!

Its all about your dog.


K9 Pro Items


French Linen


The Hurley

The Orbee Range

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