Tug Away! How To Safely Play Tug With Your Dog!

October 6th, 2009 by Dan

There’s a vicious rumor circulating through the dog training world that playing “Tug” with your dog will make him into a dominant, uncontrollable beast. I’m not sure where this fallacy started, but when safety guidelines are followed, playing a nice game of Tug-o-War can be a great way for your dog to expel some excess energy!

* The Tug should be a special toy that you (as the highest member of the pack) has control over. It shouldn’t be in your dog’s toy box. When you want to instigate a game, get the tug out and play on your terms and by your rules.

Tugging Close Up

Photo by The Pack

* The tug should be made of a material that is gentle on your dog’s mouth. Rope and fleece are excellent choices. It should be long enough that your hands are nowhere near your dog’s teeth (at least 12 inches long!)

* Make sure you make your dog “sit” and “wait” before you begin to play with the tug toy. This is an excellent way to reinforce commands and will help link these polite behaviors with the game.

* When you’re ready to play say “Get it!” in a happy voice and encourage him to tug at the toy – if at any time he lunges, moves his teeth up the toy or nips, exclaim “Uh Oh!” and remove the toy (by moving it behind your back or on top of a high object) for 30 seconds.

You should only tug side to side, not up and down. Don’t lift your dog up by the toy!


Photo by TheGiantVermin

Practice getting your dog to give you the tug using the “drop it” command during the game. At the end, trade him a yummy treat for the toy. Make sure you put it away until next time!

Children shouldn’t play tug with dogs unless they are watched carefully and can follow the safety rules.

A controlled game of Tug-o-War is a wonderful way for your dog to appropriately use his mouth and teeth. Get out there and play with your dogs!

One Response to “Tug Away! How To Safely Play Tug With Your Dog!”

  1. Chris Says:

    I have had a number of dogs over the years, I’ve played tug with all of them, and I have never had a problem with aggression. That said however, my lab tends to get excited when you play tug with him. He will “choke up” on toy and you have to make sure he doesn’t accidentally get your finger in the process.

    I enjoyed the article and appreciate the advice.


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