The game of Tug of War has long been debated by canine professionals. Some traditionalists argue that playing Tug of War can promote aggression. However more recent studies show that playing this classic game is a great way to:

  1. provide your dog with mental exercise
  2. provide your dog with physical exercise
  3. practice training commands with your dog
  4. reward your dog for other positive behaviour

The pulling action (or tug) is actually a natural drive in dogs, and it is therefore critical that we, as responsible dog owners, try and understand this behaviour, before halting it altogether. The pulling action is hard-wired into a dog; dogs that can fight for food are more likely to survive in the wild.

But don’t let this scare you away from playing Tug of War with your four-legged pal.

If played correctly, as Cristine Dahl writes in her book Good Dog 101 (page 99), “Rather than teaching your dog to be aggressive, it actually gives him a legal and controlled outlet for his drive energy”.

So here are some simple rules to follow when playing Tug of War:

  1. Choose a designated tug toy:
    • make sure you pick something strong and sturdy, like rope or a strong fabric toy that can be gripped by you and your dog.
  2. Choose a start cue:
    • your dog should not start pulling until invited to play, so pick a phrase like ‘Tug Time’ to signify the start of the game.
  3. Make sure your dog can reliably drop:
    • your dog should drop the rope on command, as well as sitting or dropping/lying down on command, in case you need to halt the game.
  4. No uninvited takes or retakes:
    • only play Tug of War if you have initiated the game using your start cue. If your dog tries to initiate the game by picking up the toy, don’t encourage him by playing, instead walk away, it should only ever be initiated by you.
  5. Take frequent breaks:
    • Use the time to practice other training commands, like ‘sit’, ‘wait’, ‘drop’ etc. Once your dog ahs completed these commands, play tug of War as the reward.
  6. No teeth on humans:
    • If your dog’s teeth even slightly touch your skin, halt the game by dropping your side of the toy immediately, say “Ouch” and walk away from the game.

Despite traditional thinking, you don’t need to win every game of Tug of War with your dog. As Dahl writes (pg 100) “The game itself is so highly rewarding that dropping the toy altogether regardless of who has possession is a punishment”. In other words, your dog wants to win really badly, and if he plays by the rules you have set out, rest assured that you won’t be creating an aggressive dog by letting him win!

Tug of War is great for you both and can go a long way in developing a strong canine-human bond. So have fun playing, and be safe!

We have a number of great Tug toys available at reception. They are made of tough fabric so why not pick one up today at the Doghouse! Contact us for more details.