Is it alright to play tug-of-war with a puppy or adult dog? Yes, as long as the dog has the right temperament and the human follows some common sense rules of play.

Tug of War

Should a dog owner play tug-of-war with his or her pup? The answer is usually, “Yes.” However, some dog trainers, dog veterinarians, and other dog experts say, “No.” And, that is because some breeds are naturally more aggressive than others, and within every breed there are strong “born alpha dogs” who will try to use the game, tug-of-war, to assert dominance over his or her master.

When a doggie daddy or puppy mom is in doubt about whether or not to play this rough and tumble type of game, he or she should contact a qualified dog trainer or a veterinarian for specific guidance.

Aggressive Dog

Can playing tug-of-war make a dog more aggressive? Sometimes.

Tug-of-war is a “win or loses” game that appeals to a natural canine behavior, related to fighting or pulling apart a kill in the wild to “win” the most food. Therefore, it is important that the tug-of-war game does not go too far with a puppy or adult dog that has a potentially aggressive temperament.

The human must “win” the tugging contest by ending up with the prize (the dog rope or other toys) otherwise the pooch may begin to act like the alpha dog over the submissive human.

Tug of War

Tug of War

Kids and Dogs

First of all, small children should not play tug of war with a pet. This can lead to all kinds of terrible consequences, so adults must teach youngsters about this rule. Kids who play too rough with a dog, by pulling or hitting, can prod a pooch into becoming dominating or aggressive. On the other hand, kids who manhandle a submissive dog can make the pup overly fearful, which could lead to biting.

Safe Play:

Dog owners who follow the rules will end up having a lot of doggy/human fun, and will not turn their pets into wild beasts that will tug at people’s overcoats, pull tablecloths off dining-room tables, or stealthily grab toddlers’ baby bottles.

Rules for People

Here are the simple rules that will keep an owner in the role of alpha dog:

  • The human should initiate the tug of war game, not the dog.
  • The human should always be in control, not the dog.
  • People should play this game only if the dog knows the commands for “sit” and “drop” (release of a toy). Many dog experts believe that doggie parents should not even play make-believe tug-of-war with small pups until the puppy has learned the “sit” and “drop” commands.
  • While playing, the owner should give the command to “drop” the toy every 30 seconds.

During this break, the owner and dog should practice other commands like:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Stand

If the pup follows through on these instructions, the reward should be more tug of war.

Puppy Biting - Dominance or Just Play?

Alpha Dog

The most important thing to remember is that an owner must be the “alpha dog” who stays in charge of the game, not the dog. Many trainers believe that it is best to have a special doggie tug rope, which is brought out for games, then put away. A dog should be able to tell the difference between this special rope toy and other items.

Dogs are happiest when their masters are in charge. And, because of this hierarchy, a pooch will know what to do to fit into his position in the pack (his human family) and won’t feel the need to fight for the alpha position.

Teach Your Dog Proper Tug of War