Tug of war is a very common game that many dog parents and trainers use to either just play or train their dog.

Tug of war game is basically a game where you get a rope or a toy, you give it to your dog to grab and then you start pulling. A lot of dogs love this game.

So is it a good idea to play this game?

Yes, BUT you need to be careful with 3 things: 

  1. Your dog needs to knows how to release on cue when you ask. 
  2. Never let your dog get aggressive while playing. 
  3. You need to know how to finish the game, not your dog.

Tug of war should be a game. Every game has rules. There’s no such a thing where a game doesn’t have rules. That doesn’t exist. If there’s no rules, there’s no game and if there’s no game there’s no fun. 

Try to go to a soccer field, throw a ball and explain no rules. Then add unruly kids with no boundaries. See what happens. GOOD LUCK! Obviously that’s no going to end up well. 

So if you want to play tug of war make sure you master those 3 things. 

What problems can tug of war cause?

Tug of war can become problematic If you can’t master those 3 things. If you can’y control the game I would not advice to play tug of war. Why? Because tug of war is a game that nurtures and encourages prey drive behavior. This is not a bad thing on itself, but if you don’t know what you’re doing it can lead to all kinds of direct and indirect problems.

A Direct problem is your dog getting aggressive while playing and developing resource guarding aggression. 

An indirect problem is that your dog learns to get his or her way. This not only can damage your relationship, but can show up in other behaviors or situations. Your dog starts learning that when he/she gets aggressive you listen to him/her. Aggression slowly gets reinforced because it works. And precisely because It works, your dog will try it in different situations. 

NEVER reinforce aggression or leave it unchecked. “This is when I hear stories like: “Out of the blue my dog did this or that . _- I was shocked!” It wasn’t out of the blue. It’s was slowly brewing because you did not pay attention to important details. 

Having said that, is not that hard to put some structure and rules while playing tug of war. If you do so this game not only can be a lot of fun, but it can be a great activity to your dog out.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved January 2023