Teaching Your Dog Tug-of-War and The Benefits

Tug-of-war is a great game to play with your dog and it comes with benefits that you probably wouldn’t think of. Almost every dog has the urge to pull and shake things thanks to their ancestors’ hunting days. Playing tug-of-war with your dog can help them both mentally and physically and it will decrease the incidence of negative behaviors when dogs grow bored. 

From the start, most dogs will innately know and understand how to play tug-of-war. It will usually only take a small amount of encouragement for them to start tugging on a toy. Once they have it in their mouth, a small tug on the other end is usually enough for them to start playing. There are some dogs however that don’t immediately understand and can be timid about playing.

Steps Before Training for Tug-of-War

If you think tug-of-war would be a good game for your dog, but they don’t know how to play, you can teach them. Before starting, here are some things to consider:

  • Choose a good tug-of-war toy: Pretty much any toy can be used for tug-of-war, but it’s best to have one that’s comfortable for you to hold. The toy should be soft and comfortable for your dog so it doesn’t damage the inside of their mouth. Materials such as braided rope, fleece, or soft rubber are great choices. Something like the Bumi Dog Toy is a great choice. 
  • Make sure to establish the rules of the game: 
    • Your dog shouldn’t grab the toy from you or lunge at it before you invite them to play. They should sit or wait calmly while you offer them the toy. 
    • Your dog should let go of the toy when you tell them. Teach a command like “drop it” or “leave it”.
    • Your dog can not touch your skin with its teeth. If they do, the game should end and they should begin to learn how to properly play and where to grab the toy. 

How to Teach Tug-of-War

Once a toy has been selected and the rules have been set, the following steps should be taken in order to teach them properly. 

  1. Place a small amount of peanut butter (or another soft food if you or someone else has an allergy to peanut butter) and allow them to lick it off. 
  2. Continue to do this once they become comfortable doing it and begin to chew the toy a bit. 
  3. When you see your dog nibble, grab the other end and wiggle it a tiny bit. 
  4. Continue to do this until they tug the toy a little without dropping it and walking away. 
  5. Slowly work your way to a game of tug-of-war.
  6. Make sure to use the same verbal cues so they know when it’s ok to play.

Peanut butter may not be necessary for all dogs. This is meant for dogs who are too afraid to grab the toy or play with it at all. Simply holding it and encouraging them to play can sometimes be enough. Dogs will also be bribed with chicken broth if peanut butter is unavailable. 

Benefits of Tug-of-War

Besides being a fun game that you and your dog can enjoy, playing tug-of-war with your dog comes with other benefits. Playing tug can promote impulse control, build confidence, and strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners. It’s also an amazing way to burn off excess energy and keep your dog both mentally and physically stimulated.

Dog Training in South Florida

Training and playing tug-of-war with your dog is a great way to bond with them and make great habits. Not all dogs are the same and each one needs help with something. If you’re dog needs training, Giving a Dog a Bone can help. We can teach your dog everything, including how to play tug-of-war. If you want to book a training session or you have any questions, reach out to us on our online contact page and we’ll be ready to help. 

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