Tug Of War

Tug of war can be a healthy game for your dog.

Chances are good that your dog loves to play tug-of-war. But is this game good or bad for dogs? Debate exists as to whether tug-of-war is a healthy—or even safe—activity for dogs. Will it cause aggression? Can it cause physical harm? Or is it safe to say that all's fair in tug-of-war?

Why Dogs Love Tug-of-War

For thousands of years, dogs evolved to help humans by performing jobs. These jobs included hunting, and dogs hunted even before they were domesticated. Tug-of-war may be beloved by many dogs because it mimics grabbing and shaking prey. In today's world, jobs have mostly been taken away from our canine friends not through the process of evolution but through the rapid change in human civilization. They don't need to hunt for us or for themselves anymore. Dogs are mostly expected to be pets now. However, they still have the same drives that they always did and can develop negative behaviors if those aren't met.

The Benefits of Tug-of-War

Is Tug-of-War Safe?

Despite all of the wonderful benefits that most dogs enjoy from tug-of-war, the game has a bit of a negative reputation. Many people think that it can lead to the development of aggression or dominance problems in dogs. Below are some instances where the game is not safe to play:

Outside of these considerations, most experts agree that playing tug-of-war is fine for dogs. There is no evidence that it can cause a non-aggressive dog to become aggressive. However, there are rules to the game that should always be observed, to increase its safety even further.

Tug-of-War Rules

Should You Ever Let Your Dog Win the Tug-of-War Game?

The answer of whether you should ever let your dog win at tug-of-war is not agreed upon by experts. Some say you should never let your dog win, but others say that allowing him to win by giving him possession of the toy sometimes can help build trust between you and your dog. If your dog is a good sport at tug-of-war and will reliably give you the tug toy on command, there is probably little harm to letting him win sometimes.

Some Dogs like to Play Tug-of-War with Each Other

Tug-of-war can be a great way for dogs to play together.

Dogs that get along well may be able to play tug-of-war together. If you have dogs that tend to get into fights, they should not play tug. Dogs play tug-of-war differently with each other than they do with humans. The whole goal for each dog when they are playing with other dogs is to gain possession of the toy. There may be some good-natured snarling and growling when dogs play with one another.

You can usually tell if your dogs are truly fighting because their bodies are stiff and their faces do not look happy. Their tails are not wagging, and their bodies are not wiggling and hopping good-naturedly. If your dogs do begin fighting, do not get in between them. Call your dogs to you. Dogs that are trained to come reliably when they are called will respond even in an exciting situation.

Some Dogs Like to Play Tug-of-War Alone

Do you want your dog to experience the benefits of a great game of tug-of-war but you have back, arm, or shoulder soreness that would be aggravated by it? Do you enjoy a great game of tug but you get tired before your dog does? There's a great option available for you, too. The Tether Tug Dog Toy is a great way for your dog to play Tug-of-War to his heart's content. For supervised play only.


Miller, P. (2008, September). Tug O' War Is a Fun Game To Play With Your Dog. Retrieved from The Whole Dog Journal: http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/11_9/features/Fun-Games-To-Play-With-Your-Dog_16059-1.html

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