Tug of War with Dogs?

Playing Tug-of-War with Dogs

I keep hearing that tug of war is not a good game to play with your dog. However, I have to disagree. While there are many good points about why you shouldn’t play tug of war with your dog, I believe that if you play the game properly none of those reasons matter.

Why do people say that tug of war is not a good game to play with your dog? Many people think that tug of war can encourage aggressiveness in your dog. By allowing your dog to play tug of war, your dog may think it is okay to grab something he wants. And if your dog wins at tug of war then you may be allowing him to think that he is the dominant one instead of you. Another reason people say tug of war is bad for your dog is because it may hurt his teeth.

New Kyjen Fleecy Clean Bone Dog Toy Large 14 Inch Soft Nontoxic Helps Clean Teeth Gums

To prevent damage to your dog’s teeth, don’t play to rough and stay in control of the game. Also play with gentler tug toys like the Fleecy Clean dog toy by Kyjen. Sephi and Maya love fleecy toys and play with them for both tug and chew. Because the Fleecy Clean dog toys don’t break up into stringy pieces, I feel better about them chewing on and playing with them.

By establishing rules when you play tug of war with your dog, all these issues can be avoided. The first rule is that you control the game, not your dog. Tug of war should only be allowed when you initiate the game. And the game is over when you say it is over. Don’t let your dog goad you into playing more when you are done. It is okay for your dog to decide he is done playing first, but when you are done that’s it – no more.

The second rule to playing tug of war is that your dog must let go when you tell him to. Teach your dog the ‘drop it’ command before allowing him to play tug of war. You want to be sure when playing tug of war with your dog that when you say ‘drop it’ he lets go. If your dog is not consistently good at letting go when you say ‘drop it’ you are going to have a more difficult time being in control of the game if he doesn’t let go when he is supposed to.

By being in control when you play tug of war with your dog, you can stop the game if it gets too aggressive or if you think your dog may hurt his teeth. You are also making sure your dog understands you are his leader. He is less likely to exhibit dangerous dominance issues if it is perceived that you are in control.

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5 Responses to “Tug of War with Dogs?”

  1. rumpydog Says:

    I don’t even like to play tug-o’ war anymore, but I did when I was younger.

  2. raisingdaisy Says:

    I agree with you completely on this. We trained Daisy mostly with Jan Fennell’s methods, and she also advocates not engaging in tug-o-war with dogs. However, Daisy LOVES the game and it hasn’t fostered any aggression in her. We play by the rules you stated, and it works just fine for us too. I think a lot depends on the personality of the dog as well.

    Thanks for the recommendation on that Fleecy Clean toy, we’re definitely going to try that. :)

  3. Flo Says:

    I totally agree that it is a great game to play with your dog, but that you have to be in control. My puppy pre-school trainer was very clear about that too. I also found that it was a great way to teach Flo the not only the ‘give’ command but also that she’s only allowed to ‘take’ or ‘pull’ the toy when she’s given a command to do so. It now means that she will give me anything when I ask for it, even stinky bones that she finds when we’re out for a walk, and she inevitably finds at least one stinky bone on every walk!

    Another thing that my trainer suggested was making your own tug toys using old scraps of material – just get three strips and pleat them together, then knot them at the end. I’ve done that and the ones I’ve made have lasted much longer than any rope toys I’ve bought. It’s a really cost-effective way of entertaining your dog. :)

    H and Flo

  4. dog trainer school Says:

    These are excellent tips. Who knew you needed to establish rules for tug of war. It totally makes sense though! Thanks.

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