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Teach Your Dog Proper Tug-of-War

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Teach your dog how to play Tug-of-War

Tug-of-war is a great way to help your dog or puppy release energy in a controlled environment. According to Ian Dunbar Tug-of-war is actually a great way to practice keeping control over your dog when she’s excited.


Tug-Of-War does not teach your dog to be aggressive. It is a great learning tool and a wonderful way to bond with your dog.

As always, roughhousing needs to have rules so that everyone stays safe and enjoys themselves.

What should I know when playing tug-of-war with my dog?

  1. You should always initiate. This way, the dog or the puppy knows when to start. This will prevent them from trying to play with just anyone. I use “Let’s kill this” and present an appropriate toy. It is really important that your dog does not tug without you first telling him that it is okay.
  2. You have to be in control at all time. Only play if you can get your dog to release the tug toy and sit at any time. Do this at least once every 30 seconds. Also, mix in short training breaks — ask for a sit, down, stand, down, another sit, then restart the game as a reward.
  3. If he makes contact with your skin or tries to tug on you. Yelp and stop play. You want to teach your dog or puppy to only bite on the toy, not you.
  4. If he gets to riled up stop play and do a time out. If he continues to get too wild, stop playing for the rest of the day.
  5. You control when the playtime is over. I tell my dogs “All Done” (yes, the same thing as their release word for “stay” and “wait”) this lets my dog know that they are doing what they were doing. If your dog or puppy do not stop playing, just walk away and be BORING!
  6. Never hold the tug above the head and lift up on the dog. It can cause a lot of damage to their throats.

The Whole Dog Journal has a great article about the benefits of controlled tug-of-war. Some of them include:

  • Tug-of-war helps build a healthy relationship with your dog or puppy
  • Tug-of-war teaches self-control
  • Tug-of-war creates a useful distraction
  • Tug-of-war builds confidence