How To Stop Your Dog Running Away With The Toy

In this blog we’re going to discuss how to stop your dog running away with the toy.

One of the challenges that people often face when playing tug with their dog is that if they let them win the toy the dog ends up running away from them with the toy and not coming back. So today we’re going to give you some solutions to that problem.

The first question you’ve got to ask yourself is:

If your dog is running away with the toy, why are they finding it more rewarding to run away with a toy rather than come back to you? 

Ultimately rewards strengthen behaviour so what we need to make sure is that when your dog comes back to you that the reward they experience with you is far greater than the one that they would experience whilst they’re running around with the toy in their mouth. 

You need to consider, is the game that you’re playing with your dog when they return to you more reinforcing than them running around on their own with the toy? You need to ensure that the game of tug you’re playing with your dog is tailored to suit them to provide the most reinforcement.

It’d be a really great idea to run through our previous blogs in this toy series to check the boxes on all the things we’ve talked about so far, such as toy choice, how to get your dog interested in the toy, ensuring you’re using the right physical contact for your dog and tailoring your vocals to suit them during your game of tug.

So why might your dog find it more reinforcing to run away from you with the toy in their mouth than coming back to you with the toy?

-You might be using a really interesting toy which is fantastic, but they might find it really reinforcing to run away and tear the fluff out of it.

-Another reason might be because your dog has got into the habit of running away from you and you inadvertently end up chasing after them to get them to bring the toy back. 

One of the common mistakes that people make when they’re playing with their dogs is that after they’ve let them win the toy they move towards them or overshadow them trying to encourage them to bring the toy back but actually, it often has the opposite effect on the dog’s behaviour because as we move towards them they actually end up running away and you get into a game of chase me!

A simple change you can make to help your dog to bring the toy back towards you is to change your body position, as mentioned previously rather than leaning in towards your dog as they come towards you with the toy, it’s best to change your body position and open up with your arm back and move away from them at a moderate pace which gives them more encouragement to come towards you. Also, have your hand out as a really clear target for them to go towards with the toy, moving away with this body position helps you avoid turning into your dog to catch the toy and it stops that crouching over which will encourage more movement towards your hand. This will create a game of them chasing you rather than you chasing them. 

One of the issues that you might come across with using this technique is that when you initially let go of the toy to let your dog win they will chase after you as you move away, but as they get closer to your hand or if you try to catch the toy they may go back into what they’ve done previously which is running away from you with the toy in their mouth trying to seek that game with mum or dad chasing them.

So if this is the case get a bit of rope around about two meters long and attach it to your toy. When you start the game with your dog you’re going to play exactly as you were but when you let go of the toy, you’re going to keep hold of the rope, move away and encourage your dog back to you but dont jerk or use the little bit of rope to pull the dog towards you. What we’re looking to do is to reward them for taking just one or two steps towards you to begin with which is a smaller version of the return.

Each time that your dog returns to you after you let them win, ask your dog to come just a tiny little bit closer until we get to the point that when they run towards you, you can catch onto the toy.

If your dog still isn’t bringing the toy back, then we need to change the way in which we are encouraging them back to you. You can do this by using a simple game called toy swaps, the first thing you’re going to need is two toys of exactly the same value. You would play your game of tug as normal, however, when you let go of one toy, wiggle the other toy in your other hand so you encourage your dog to let go of the toy in their mouth and run back to you to grab the new toy in your hand. 

Once your dog is consistently bringing the toy back to you to swap for the one that you’ve got in your hand, what we can start to do is to alternate between sometimes swapping for the toy that you’ve got in your hand but then other times you’re going to catch on to the toy that they bring back to you and share a game of tuggy with that one.

In summary, if your dog is struggling to bring the toy back to you, as a starting point, remember to try to change your body language and not get into a habit of chasing after them to try to get them to bring the toy back. If they’re struggling to bring the toy all of the way back to you, you can then use the extension method that we talked about where they’ll parade with you and we reward little parts of the return, and then if they’re still struggling to bring the toy back to you, we can go ahead with using the toy swap game. 

We really hope that this blog helps you start to get your dog to bring the toy back to you so you can enjoy a good game of tug 🙂

All toys shown can be found at