Posted by: Linda Trunell | November 25, 2013

Should I Play Tug With My Dog?

Several students have told me a breeder or vet told them not to play tug with their dog because it would make them aggressive.

Max and I usually play tug every night and he is not aggressive!  If we walked for an hour or spent an hour at the dog park he is happy with a short game of tug.  If he has a lot of energy to burn we get pretty wild and play “Super Dog” – that’s where we run around and he jumps up on the bed while tugging. I also played tug with my last dog, Buster Brown, and he was a 165-lb. Saint Bernard.  He was not an aggressive dog either.

Jean Donaldson, acclaimed author of The Culture Clash writes: “Drs. Peter Borchelt and Linda Goodloe have conducted the only study ever performed on owners who play tug with their dogs vs. those that do not. The study yielded zero correlation between regular tug-of-war games and increased aggression.”  – See more at: http://www.halleballedog.com/dog-aggression-no-reason-avoid-playing-tug/#sthash.KntkuQaC.dpuf

Note: If your dog has any guarding issues you should work with him to resolve that behavior.  See this post on Ahimsa Dog Training Blog – Resource Guarding http://ahimsadogtraining.com/blog/resource-guarding/  If you need help, find a force-free trainer who uses positive reinforcement.

Dog-playing-tug-Thinkstock-99255739-335lc041013Thinkstock Photo

Playing tug can be a great way to bond, to burn off some energy, and help your dog learn impulse control. It all depends on how you play the game!  Your dog should know “sit” and “drop it” first.

  • Always ask your dog to sit before offering the toy.
  • Use a toy that is long enough to keep your hand away from the dog’s mouth.  We use a 3′ long rope braid.
  • Some dogs growl when playing but I don’t think you should growl or act aggressively.  Be a playmate – not an adversary.  The game should be a joint effort to “get the prey”.
  • Never lift the dog off the ground or jerk roughly – just use a rocking tugging motion.
  • If your dog grabs your hand instead of the toy, just give a little yelp and drop the toy and walk away.  Give him a minute to settle down and then start again.
  • Ask your dog to drop the toy after tugging a bit.  If he drops it, praise him and then tell him to “take it” again.  Returning to play is the reward.  If he refuses to drop it, ending the game is the punishment.

Have fun playing and it is okay to let your dog win sometimes! Remember a tired dog is a good dog.

Here’s to being our dog’s best friend,

Linda


Responses

  1. Ruby and I play tug every afternoon. Gets rid of a bit of energy and it’s nice boning time. She usually gives up first!

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    • I would have expected Ruby to win most of the time! You must be an energetic playmate! 🙂

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  2. What is the concern with lifting the dog off the ground. Asking because sometimes, Donna leaps at the tugs at the toy so she will have her back legs on the ground but her fore legs in the air… her back and back legs are getting quite strong from the exercise!!

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    • We don’t want to lift the dog off the ground by the tug because it could hyper-extend their neck and possibly cause an injury. Try to mimic a dog when playing tug – they pull side to side or straight back. Their necks are built to have tremendous power from side to side, but not up and down. When dogs tug with other dogs you will never see one jerk or bounce the other up and down. When Max jumps on the bed while tugging I am not pulling him up – he is pushing with his hind legs. I don’t think you are lifting Donna but if she is lunging at the tug maybe she is getting too excited and you should try to keep the tug lower and take frequent breaks. 🙂

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      • Thank you for the explanation!! Helps alot! 🙂

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  3. I will try to act like you wrote in case Easy confuses the rope with my hand again. Thanks :o)

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    • Try just a short “ouch” or “yelp” because yelling or squealing may get Easy more excited (kind of like a squeaky toy). I’m sure he’ll learn the rules. 🙂

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  4. It’s a nice information about best dog training.Thanks for this information .I really appreciate your work, keep it up.
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    • Thank you for your kind words, Mike!

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  5. […] …(you) don’t want to lift the dog off the ground by the tug because it could hyper-extend their neck and possibly cause an injury. Try to mimic a dog when playing tug – they pull side to side or straight back. Their necks are built to have tremendous power from side to side, but not up and down. When dogs tug with other dogs you will never see one jerk or bounce the other up and down. – Should I play tug with my dog […]

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