Should this game be forbidden?

Recommendations abound advising pet owners to avoid this game, as it can easily go wrong if not played carefully.



This game can be a great energy outlet and awesome reward. It can help build self control and cooperative play, or it can be a major contributing factor in lack of impulse control when the game goes awry.

It's how you play the game.

Focus on impulse control.

A dog, playing in an aroused state with his teeth, the dog must have very good bite inhibition and a great relationship with the person on the other end of the toy.  When playing a game where teeth can be so close to skin, it is absolutely critical that the dog understand the rules of the game - and that the human has taught the rules of the game very carefully.


If you have concerns about arousal or aggression, get help from a knowledgable trainer.


Step one, BEFORE initiating any competitive pulling, is to teach the dog to take it and give it back


Self control. No matter how long ...

you must wait ...




Patiently waiting

for the signal forthe game to begin ...

This level of self control, can be taught through tug games!

The dog must wait until specifically told he may







The game continues until the human gives the cue to "drop it." When given the drop cue, the dog should let go promptly.  Stop and play controlled fetch games in between tugs.


The tug game can reward a nice delivery to hand.  If during the game he runs off with the toy, don't chase him down or try to wrestle it out of his mouth.  The game should be more fun when you have the other end of the toy.


Use tug as a reward. Following a series of well-performed cues, a toy can be a great jackpot for great work. 



Take breaks between tug sessions. This will keep his arousal/excitement in check if he is likely to ramp up and get mouthy.  The game stops if he accidentally touches skin.  If you ask for a drop and he can't, take more frequent breaks and keep the game a bit calmer so he can follow your cues.


A nice "drop" can be rewarded with a game of fetch.

Excellent article from the SanFrancisco SPCA on tug of war!
Another great article: "Dog Tugging Games Stimulate Performance"!

See also:

Good Games, Bad Games
How to Play with Your Dog



This handout courtesy of © CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF"
Training for Dogs & Their People (509) 325-7833 
ditr_training @ hotmail.com - http://www.diamondsintheruff.com



More about how to play with your dog: 
Intelligent Diversions & Creative Play!