TUG OF WAR “To play or not to play”

Tug-of-War-editedThere is a lot of controversy around this game, previously thought to be a game that encouraged your dog to play roughly and to use their strength against their owners.

Tugging is an activity that is natural to most dogs. Grabbing something, shaking it hard, playing with it, and growling are all part of this activity. Dogs play tug of war with each other so what is stopping us engaging in this game with our dogs too. Playing with our dogs is important. However, please note that there are guidelines that should be included when playing this game with your dog.



The benefits are:

  • We are interacting with our dog in a way they enjoy.
  • We are giving them attention and our time.
  • We are generating boundaries during this interaction, (see guidelines to safe tug play below).
  • We can use this play as a reward.
  • We are relationship building and bonding.
  • Generating an activity to relieve stress.
  • It helps practice focus, patience, give, drop, take, default sit,saying please, exhibiting self-control, practicing handling skills, and timing of rewards by the handler.
  • It’s 100% positive.

Please note that if your dog gets excited and over threshold (very quickly) that it is important to have guidance with this game. If your dog is exhibiting any behaviour problems or has any medical issues, please consult the appropriate professional in relation to this activity with your dog/puppy.

Also, if you have any health issues this may not be the game for you.

Please have fun when playing with your dog.

Guidelines to play:

  1. Teach or dog to give/release/drop/out/mine, whatever cue feels natural to use. This can be done by exchanging objects for an equal or higher value reward.
  2. If your dog is not comfortable picking up a toy you need to make the tug toy come alive. This encourages an interaction and most dogs over time will start to tug with some coaxing.
  3. If a dog is very tug driven and finds this a very stimulating game, it is important to generate boundaries to make sure they understand the release cue. It is not always safe for children to play this game with some dogs.

How to play:

  • The dog/puppy must sit/lie down and give eye contact. They must only take hold of the toy when given the PLAY cue, make sure the dog has the tug toy firmly in their mouth, allow them to do the first tug.
  • Gently tug from side to side making sure their head stays in line with their body. You are generating the resistance while the dog is doing the tugging. Refrain from any up and down movements as this can be dangerous for your dog.
  • Do not hold the toy in the air for your dog to jump up to.
  • Play gently according to your dog’s tug motivation.
  • Give the dog the RELEASE cue frequently so they don’t get too over aroused by this game. Lots of releases are important in teaching the dog to relinquish the tug toy. The dog/puppy must sit calmly and only take hold of the toy when given permission for the game to continue.

When handled correctly tug of war can be an enjoyable game for your dog and your entire family as long as these guidelines are adhered too.

Have fun and play safely!

Anna Tasker, Paw Power Dog Training 0431 511215 / www.pawpower.com.au


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