When thinking of games to play with your dog, chances are, tug-of-war is pretty high on the list. That's because it is a classic game that's easy to play and one that nearly all dogs can enjoy.
First of all, you may be wondering exactly why dogs seem to love tug-of-war games so much. The first reason is that playing tug games draws out their natural instincts of hunting prey. Even if your dog is not a "hunting" dog, they still have some of those tendencies from their distant ancestors.
For some dogs, tugging a rope may emulate the behavior of biting and shaking its prey after a successful hunt. Tug toys also allow dogs to emulate the behavior of pulling or ripping at the skin of an animal carcass. As alarming as this might sound, know that this is completely natural behavior and won't necessarily make your pup more aggressive (more on this later). Dogs may also love tugging games simply due to the fact that it requires collaboration and encourages bonding between the two of you!
BENEFITS OF TUG TOYS AND GAMES
Tug toys and games offer several benefits for your dog. The first is that it provides them with plenty of exercise. It's quite a workout for them and is a nice change of pace from a walk or jog. It helps mix up your dog's physical activity and keeps things interesting for them. In addition to physical exercise, tug toys provide excellent mental stimulation. As mentioned earlier, another benefit of playing tug games is that it's a great bonding activity.
Tug toys also help redirect destructive chewing. Most dogs by nature love chewing on anything they can get their paws on, and having a specific toy for this purpose can help them nip this habit in the bud, or at the very least, distract them while you take your items away.
Last of all, tug toys and games can boost your dog's confidence which helps them learn to trust you more!
WILL TUG-OF-WAR MAKE MY DOG AGGRESSIVE?
Some owners may be hesitant to play tug games with their dog because they are afraid that it will cause their dog to become aggressive. In actuality, tug games can be a great confidence booster for your pup and won't necessarily cause them to become aggressive. However, you need to ensure that you are playing safely and in the right way.
Playing too rough could eventually cause your dog to become aggressive, but tug-of-war itself is not a harmful game. It's important to note, though, that if your dog already has aggressive tendencies, tug games could possibly intensify this behavior. In that case, you may want to try other activities instead.
TIPS FOR PLAYING TUG GAMES SAFELY
TIP ONE: Find a good tug toy
You'll want a toy that is durable and will hold up to plenty of chewing and tugging. You also want something that fits in their mouth and leaves enough space for you to grip the toy too. Once you've chosen a toy, introduce it to your dog, and be sure it's the only toy you use for tug games. This will help your dog know that you're not interested in playing tug with forbidden items such as T-shirts or socks. Below are some of our top-selling tug toys from top pet brands like Chuckit! and JW Pet.
TIP TWO: Establish the rules
Because tug games can easily get your dog all riled up and excited, it's important that you train them and set some rules so that things don't get out of hand. Teach your dog commands such as "drop it" or "release" so that you can easily stop playing if necessary. Another good rule is to stop the game anytime your dog's mouth or teeth touch you, even if it's purely by accident. This will help teach them that any contact with your hand is not okay. You will also want to teach your dog a command for when the game is over, such as "finished" or "all done."
TIP THREE: Let your dog win around 70% of the time
Some people fear that letting your dog win too often will give them the idea that they are dominant over you or the "alpha" of the household. This is not the case. Allowing your dog to win will not change that view of your relationship. Your dog will also get bored, or maybe even discouraged, if you're always the one winning. Give them plenty of opportunities to win the game and praise them when they do!
Tug games can be very beneficial and a great bonding activity for you and your dog! As long as you have the right tug toy, put rules in place, and know when to stop, tug-of-war can easily become one of your pup's favorite games.