Dog Care 101 Tip #202: Playing Tug-of-War the Right & Safe Way

Recently there has been a lot of question about the nature of playing the classic dog game tug-of-war. Some say it brings out aggressive tendencies in dogs; however, believes if you have a well-behaved dog that listens, tug-of-war is a great way to not only bond with your dog but also get your dog’s mind and body working. Here are a few ways to make sure tug is always a positive experience for you and your dog.

1. Teach your Dog to Listen
Before you play tug with your dog, make sure your dog can listen to commands. In particular, the “drop it” or “release” command is good for tug. This will help you stop the game easily if needed.

2. The Right Toy
Making sure your dog has the toughest tug toy out there is a must. Flexible yet durable enough for tugging, most good chew toys are made of rubber. A comfy handle is important, too. Check out our Rope-Tug Toys for sturdy, long lasting dog tug toys.

3. Where To Play
The best places to play tug are open areas free of clutter. Playing outside is a great idea, too.

4. Signs for Aggressive Behavior
Most likely your dog will get excited while playing tug. And why shouldn’t they?! They’re having fun! You might notice your dog growling, too. This is perfectly normal as tug is the resemblance of a predatory behavior. As long as your dog’s tail is still wagging, and the growl isn’t threatening, then play can continue.

5. When to Take a Break
If play does get a little too rowdy, you feel uncomfortable at any point or your dog’s teeth come in contact with you, tell your dog to “drop it” and stop play for about 30 seconds. During this time you can go over basic commands like sit, stay and down to keep your dog calm and in a state of obedience. If your dog makes the same mistakes two or three times, end tug for the day. Your dog will soon become aware there are rules and learn to follow them.

6. Who Wins?

Letting your dog win tug-of-war will help your pup build confidence! More times than not, it’s good to let your dog win. However, if your dog breaks the tug rules, you must be the one who wins.

7. Best Partners

You and your dog are great tug partners, but what about your other dog(s) or your dog’s canine friends? If two dogs are well-behaved and familiar with each other, playing tug together should be fine. We do suggest supervision. Letting your dogs play tug together will not only tire them physically, but give them a mental challenge as well! 

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