Tug-of-war: Good or bad?


When we think of tug games, we seldom consider whether this could possibly harm our dogs physically.

Dr. Peter Tobias says: Tug-of-war is a part of having fun with our dogs. However, many people do not know that playing too rough can cause serious neck injuries that can lead to serious problems from ear problems, paw licking, thyroid dysfunctions and more. See here what you can do to prevent this from happening, as Tobias demonstrates with his own dog

So, whilst bearing in mind the effect tug-of-war can have on a dog’s body, what benefits or otherwise can it have on the dog’s behaviour and mental well-being?

DogHealth.com: While playing tug is very rewarding to most dogs, the game has somewhat of a bad rap. Many think it’s risky and can lead to an out-of-control dog. Indeed there are cases where it’s not safe but following proper instructions it can actually result in a dog with better self-control.

It is explained very well by behaviourists at San Francisco SPCA:  ‘Played with rules, tug-of-war is a tremendous predatory energy burner and good exercise for both dog and owner. It serves as a barometer of the kind of control you have over the dog, most importantly over his jaws. The game doesn’t make the dog a predator: he already is one. The game is an outlet’.


See Victoria Stilwell demonstrating how to play tug-of-war properly.

Here is the story of a dog I helped that demonstrates some of the dangers to the relationship between dog and humans when tug-of-war is played without any rules at all.  As with any play, we should always know when to stop and enough is enough. De-stressing nose and brain games like Sprinkles are an important part of the package or play with our dogs.

Here is my man website: www.dogidog.co.uk

About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist C.C.B (Certified Canine Behaviourist) INTODogs). I have helped over 3000 dog owners over eighteen years. In addition to online consultations all over the world, I cover Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks for home visits. A 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a full member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site: www.dogidog.co.uk
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