How to Train Your Dog to Play Tug of War

Tug of war
Monika Heinrichs / Flickr

Tug of war is a fun and exciting activity for your energetic dog. Active and zestful dogs love playing tug of war. Did you know that tug of war is a healthy and safe way for your dog to vent its natural predatory instincts? That would be when it’s played correctly. This stimulating game is an awesome way to grow the bond you have with your dog. Tug of war is also a healthy way to exercise your dog physically and mentally.

Always ensure you engage in this activity healthily and safely. Patiently train your dog and set up the rules for playing. Consistent training helps keep the game safe and fun. When you have trained your dog properly, there shouldn’t be any problems during playtime.

Train Your Pup to Drop the Toy On Command

Start by training your dog to follow a command that stops the game. Commands such as “drop” allows you to stop the game whenever you need to. Train your dog until you’re confident it will stop when the game gets too rowdy. Give time for your dog to fully learn the commands before you play.

Tug of War
C&J Design / Flickr

Pick the Right Toy

Look for proper tug of war toys. Make sure you purchase toys that are designed for tugging games. Look for toys that are strong, heavy-duty, and flexible. Materials such as rubber or anything similar are the best option. Make sure the toy also has a comfortable handle that keeps your hands at a safe distance away from the dog.

Play in Areas with Plenty of Space

While playing tug of war, make sure there’s plenty of space around you. Check for any objects that could get damaged during playtime. It’s always best to play this game outdoors. You could also play indoors if you have enough space. Always make sure there’s plenty of room for both you and the dog to move around without hitting anything.

Puppy tug of war
Pat Gaines / Flickr

You Should Start the Game

Always make sure you start the game because you’re in command and you set the rules. Your dog should learn that you decide when it’s playtime and when it’s not.

Exercise Caution and Take a Break When Needed

If your dog gets too excited, it might start growling. Keep in mind that this is normal behavior, as the game allows your dog’s predatory nature to kick in. But be cautious and bear in mind to keep your dog from getting too aggressive

Keep your dog in check by taking breaks. It should be fine when it growls a little bit while its tail is still wagging, but don’t let it get any more intense. If you start getting concerned at any point, stop and let your dog take a break to cool off.

Never let your dog’s teeth come into contact with you at all, and if it does, stop playtime immediately. Say your command, remove the toy, and rest for about 30 seconds.

Pat OBrien / Flickr

It’s completely fine to let your dog win tug of war against you. Winning can build your dog’s confidence. But, if at any point during the game your dog shows bad behavior, do not let it win.

You could also let two dogs play the game as long as they’re both friendly with each other. Make sure you supervise them. Stop the game and take a break if they break any rules. Doing this keeps them in control.

When ordering them to stop, say your command and take a short break to get them to sit and calm down. When both dogs have calmed down, you may resume the game.

Final Thoughts

As with every other training, make sure to practice your commands during the game. Repeated exercise trains your dog to drop the toy immediately. Stop the game pronto if your dog bites even if it’s by accident.

This practice trains the dog to be careful with its teeth. Your dog’s teeth will likely graze you every now and then while playing. But when your dog learns the rules, it will be more and more careful.

Tug of war is not only a great bonding experience that stimulates your dog. Tug of war is also a good way to exercise both you and your canine buddy.

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