To tug or not to tug. Are tug games good or bad for dogs?
When it was believed that dogs were constantly tying to dominate us and so in order to control them we in turn had to make sure we were more dominant than they were, tug games were frowned on, it was believed that it pitted our strength against theirs and once you entered into this this game you had to win, end up with the toy.
In the 25 plus years that I have been training dogs, search dogs and pets dogs I have never believed that the dogs I worked and played tug-of-war with were doing any more than just enjoying the game. They would growl during the game yes, but this is what dogs do! It’s not dominance!
Tug-of-war is one of the few games that you can play with the dog where if you let go, it needs to come back to you to play some more. When the owner lets go of the toy some dogs run away with it, these dogs think that the game is “chase me when I have the toy” rather than tug-of-war. Tug-of-war is a great energy sapper for the dog and good exercise for the owner to boot!
There are rules to this game, firstly ensure that the toy is big enough for both you and the dog to hold. When playing, if the dog catches your hand with its teeth say “OUCH” and walk away from the dog, ignore it for 2-3 minutes – the game stops. If your timing is good your dog will quickly learn that it needs to be careful with its teeth. The dog should also be taught a “leave” command using treats in exchange for the toy. Once the game has finished put the toy away out of the dogs reach, ready for the next time.
Keeping the dog’s favourite toys out of reach until you are ready to play helps to maintain the toys’ motivational value for the next play/training session.
Are you worried about safe ways to play with your dog?
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