If your dog is anything like mine, he loves to play tug-of-war. Many people believe that tug-of-war can lead to aggressive or dominant behavior, but that is simply NOT TRUE.
As a Certified Dog Trainer I tell you with 100% confidence that playing tug-of-war with your dog will not cause aggression and there have been no studies to prove that it does.
In fact recent studies have found that dogs who play tug-of-war with their owners were more obedient, and exhibited less behavioral problems than dogs who don’t play tug-of-war.
Tug-of-war is one of the easiest ways to engage and bond with your dog in a meaningful way, but what are the other benefits?
- Builds Confidence Through Play - Tug-of-war is one of the quickest and easiest ways to give your dog confidence & bring them out of their shell. Dogs like to bite, they like to shake things in their mouths, and they like to tug. When you don’t provide this outlet for your dog you can cause severe depression, anxiety, stress and boredom. Playing tug-of-war with your dog provides a plethora of benefits but, exercising, building confidence and teaching new behaviors are the three main reasons we teach Tug-of-war to every dog we own or train.
2. Expends mental and physical energy - Tug-of-war isn’t just beneficial for physical reasons it is also a giant mental stimulator for dogs. Playing tug with your dog is like playing a game of basketball with friends or running a mile with your girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s mentally exhausting and extremely fulfilling. Dogs have pleasurable endorphins that are released when they play tug.
3. Use it as a reward - UseTug-of-war as a way to get your dog off of food as a reinforcement for doing good behaviors. By teaching your dog a fun and rewarding activity like tug-of-war and playing it consistently for a specific amount of time (15 minutes minimum) and you will create a reward that is so powerful that it will trump any treat on the market!
4. Teach new behaviors via TUG-OF-WAR - We use Tug to teach all sorts of behaviors when training dogs but, fetch is one of the biggest behaviors to form out of playing Tug-of-war. We play tug then toss the tug toy away and the dog brings it back to play tug again. It’s just the beginning. You can literally teach fetch just by playing tug. Find out more on teaching new behaviors with Tug-of-war here
How do you play tug-of-war?
- Start by shaking the toy to entice your dog to grab it. When your dog grabs the toy say yes and apply a little pressure by pulling back on the tug toy but, not too hard. You don’t want to just rip it out of your dogs’ mouth.
- Don’t just stand there with the toy, make the toy come to life. As your dog gets better, pull harder. Don’t worry about winning, there is no winner or loser in the game of Tug-of-war.
- Pull out a treat to entice your dog to drop the toy to grab the treat. This is how we start teaching drop which you must do in the beginning of teaching tug so that your dog doesn’t get so good that you can’t get the tug toy back.
- Teach Rules: You need to teach drop it and take it when playing tug. This tells your dog when to take the toy from you and when to drop the toy. When you don’t do this you will have a dog that demands tug of war and will not drop the toy once they have it. At that point, there is not game of tug. It’s just a game of keep away from the owner, lol.
- Once your dog is taking the toy from you and tugging on it reliably, start saying “Take-it” right before your dog takes it and when your dog takes it and tugs, say yes and continue tugging.
Tug Toy Recommendations? We Got You!
DIY Tug toys
- Old shirts - Tie 3 knots in one of your old shirts that has your smell on it. 1 knot on each end and 1 knot in the middle of the shirt
- Old Socks - You can take 1 long sock and ball it up, then put it in another long sock and tie a knot just above the balled up sock. We do use these types with our own dogs but, eventually they rip it up and you have to do it again. I found myself buying socks to make tug toys and by the time you do that, you should purchase a tug toy that is going to last a lot longer and be more fun.
- Rope - Thick rope. Not skinny rope or rope that frays. Buy rope that has a little give to it and it should have soft material.