Quick Tip for Fun with Your Dog – Tug-of-War

Tug-of-war is a fun and harmless game to play with your furry friend.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
1-minute read

Playing tug-of-war is some of the most fun we can have with our dogs. Played by the rules, tug will strengthen your dog’s self-control and teach her to respond to you even when she’s amped. The consequence for breaking a rule is that the game ends, so dogs who love tug generally learn the rules PDQ.

Two quick cautions before the fun: if your dog acts possessive over food, toys, or space, consult a behavior specialist before you play tug. In fact, consult a behavior specialist anyway. Also, if your dog mouths hard when excited, keep tug-of-war games brief and low-key. Interrupt play often.

A few last pointers. Many dogs get growly during tug. Look at your dog’s body overall – is he wiggly? Are his eyes soft? Does he look happy and playful? Good. Also, as a rule of thumb, play growls are relatively throaty and high-pitched; growls that mean business are deep and come from the chest.

Finally, play gently with a puppy or adolescent: no pulling upward; keep the toy at the level of the dog’s head, or lower. Skip tug altogether while your pup is teething.

Dog With Rope image courtesy of Shutterstock

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About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).