Is Playing “Tug O’ War” With My Dog Okay?

  • Pin It

  • Pin It

is playing "Tug O' War" with my dog okay?

Who hasn’t heard the age old advice that playing “tug o’ war” with your dog will make him aggressive?

I remember believing this over 20 years ago when I got into dog training.

And, I’m ashamed that I, too, fell for this old urban legend.

Because it, in and of itself, is not true.

Why Is this Misinformation Perpetuated?

There are a lot of old urban legends that claim certain things make dogs “dominant”.

The problem with playing tug with your dog is that it can create excited behavior which is hard for your dog to control.

Dogs love to pull and tug on things.

The excitement that is created can cause some bad behavior and agitation.

But that doesn’t mean your teddy bear of a dog is going to be aggressive after the game.

It is important that the terms of the game are controlled by you.

I LOVE Playing Tug with My Dogs

I actually love playing tug with my dogs!

It increases their prey drive and excitement level, and in the beginning sometimes they miss and a tooth hits my hand, but I use this game to control my dogs’ obedience.

It also makes my dogs’ obedience happy and animated and who doesn’t want that?

Do I Always Win?

No!is playing "Tug O' War" with my dog okay?

I mean, I suppose I win because I am in charge of the game and everything that my dog gets, but I often let him have the toy.

I also make him do things just to start the game.

I make him sit and control himself.

Or I make him lie down.

I might even ask him to heel and give me eye contact.

I even make him drop it or spit it out while we play and I am tugging.

The obedience puts you in control and teaches him to control some of his basic impulses and instincts.

And, impulse control is critical to good behavior.

The Problem

The problem, and the reason people feel this game incites aggression, is because the dog is just stimulated to the point of overstimulation and agitation and control is never added.

Or the person tries to win every time…

And, it is very difficult to drop your toy and end a game if you are overstimulated and excited and you never win the toy.

I mean, would you play a game that you literally could never win?

Either dogs lose interest or they get possessive and neither will help you with the training of your puppy!



Want Help Controlling Your Dog’s Impulsive Play Drive?

Check out the 7 exercises every dog owner should try, if they want their dog to learn how to be more calm and under control.

Click here to ACCESS these 7 exercises.



There are 10 Comments

  1. Carol says:

    No video came through.


  2. Melinda says:

    I agree, for the most part, but question tug-of-war when it comes to retrievers. We want our dogs to enjoy and be as enthusiastic with our outdoor experiences. But if your dog is a “trained” retriever, we don’t want his joy of the hunt to end up with a mangled bird or an eaten one. We want our hunting buddies to deliver nicely to hand with no “play” tugs. Bad form. Even retriever training with canvas or plastic dummies should always come back to hand with a soft mouth. Our three year old lab came upon some baby rabbits last spring. I guess she figured she needed to mother them as she brought both back to the house in her mouth-soggy but none the worse for the wear. Just my thought from 27 years of working Labrador retrievers.


    Minette Reply:

    And I want my protection dogs to crush the decoy in his mouth and bite full.

    Yet, my dog caught a pigeon in the air the other day and didn’t crush it or even hurt it.

    Dogs are capable of recognizing a difference from one game to another, the problem is that we often don’t give them that credit.

    It is like people who show confirmation who think their dogs can’t learn to sit… a dog is capable of doing a lot of things if we teach them well in circumstance


  3. Martha Vuist-Bruske says:

    Hello Chet, I have purchased your training tapes in the past. I have a two year old Labrador retriever. One year ago she was in a dog fight with a friends dog that came over to visit. It was a small dog that started the fight.
    However, it was my dog that did the damage. Both dogs are fine now. I am now concerned about my dog and dad future with other dogs. What can I do to make her less aggressive towards other dogs. Before this incident she played fine with other dogs. Thank you very much


    Minette Reply:

    You can’t force dogs to like each other instead work on obedience and control. Read this


  4. Joan Boase says:

    I play tug with a towel, and just say ‘enough’ when I want to finish. My old lab died at 16 1/2 with all his teeth firmly in place, and I think the towel acted like dental floss! He was a very gentle dog, who simply liked to tug (and we growled at each other, too). I plan to do the same with my new puppy.


  5. S Wulff says:

    Awe 16 1/2 that’s a good life for a lab. We are on our 3 Golden. Clover will be 4 soon. Just last eve we were playing with an old hand towel. She was thrashing it all about. Both of us growling too. I usually wait till they are older puppies before I do this or tug of war. They seem more able to settle down right away when I say “that’s enough” ha


  6. Harold Feinleib says:

    I play tug with one of his (3 yr old Havanese) toys. I also growl sometimes. He let’s go because he knows I am going to throw the toy so he can retrieve it. He usually stops when he gets tired after several minutes of running.


  7. Marguerite says:

    Our dog is a 100? pound German Sheppard. We just (inherited) him about a week or so ago.and he is SO excitable and when he comes in from the outside we can hardly control him. We definitely need help with him if we are going to keep him. He is a beautiful animal and we love him but he has to calm down. He has no formal training so I hope he isn’t too old to train now. Where do we go from here? Thank you for reading this


    Minette Reply:

    Obedience is definitely a necessity but I think you are looking at this all wrong. You want to calm him down but are you giving him enough physical and mental stimulation? You can’t expect a calm dog if you aren’t doing your part.

    Would you expect a toddler to calm down and sit still all day? Probably not. If you want your toddler to be calm later in the day you probably take them to the park and let them play and get tired. The dog needs the same thing.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *