tug at

tug at (someone or something)

1. To pull or yank on someone or something vigorously or repeatedly. Yes, we can go see the lion enclosure now, stop tugging at me like that! The tractor tugged at the car, but it still wouldn't budge from the ditch.
2. To demand or require someone's attention, especially urgently or incessantly. It can be easy to become overwhelmed when you've got a dozen different things tugging at you, so we've created a software suite to help get your business life back in order. The whole time I was in college, the thought of moving to Japan and teaching English just kept tugging at me.
See also: tug
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

tug at someone or something

to pull at someone or something. Stop tugging at me! I'll talk to you in a minute. The dog tugged at my pants cuff.
See also: tug
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
See also:
References in classic literature ?
Trudolyubov will beat me hardest, he is so strong; Ferfitchkin will be sure to catch hold sideways and tug at my hair.
Just then her driver came up, and with a tug at her mouth backed her out of the line and drove off, leaving me very sad indeed.
Just as they were about to dock, the tug at the centre of the disaster - called the Dalkey - smashed into the car ferry causing more than EUR100,000 of damage.
Once the tip catches hold of the molecule, the researchers tug at it repeatedly until all the bonds have broken, like pulling ivy away from a wall, tendril by tendril.
Salvage engineers later raised the tug at low tide and removed it to the docks for a full inspection.