Is Tug of War Bad for Dogs?

Is tug of war bad for dogs? No, playing tug is not bad for dogs. It’s a common misconception that tug of war promotes aggressive behavior or dominant behavior. In fact, there are dog trainers and scientific studies that refute this. This isn’t Squid Game! Every pup needs a dog tug toy in their life.

Why do dogs like tug of war? Dogs play tug because it’s fun! It’s a satisfying game that stimulates their natural instincts and gives them a great form of exercise at the same time. A game of tug of war with you or another dog strengthens bonds, builds confidence, and can be an overall rewarding experience.

There are many benefits of playing tug with your dog as long as you teach them how to play properly. Tug can even be used during training sessions as a lesson in impulse control. Read on to learn how!

Benefits of Playing Tug

resource guarding in dogs

Dogs can actually benefit from playing a game of tug! For shy or uncertain dogs, it does wonders for confidence-building. And it’s a great outlet for perky pups with excess energy to burn. Let’s dive in on the variety of ways a good game of tug can benefit your dog.

It’s an excellent dog training tool

A tug toy is more than just a toy — it’s actually one of the most valuable teaching tools in your dog’s toy box. You can use a tug rope or other tug toy to teach impulse control, bite inhibition, as well as commands like “drop it”. Training isn’t a bore when you’ve made a fun game out of it!

Your dog’s teeth were made for chomping, so your dog’s mouth needs an appropriate chew toy that isn’t your fingers, hands, or furniture. If you have a “mouthy” dog or puppy, a tug toy is an excellent way to redirect that inappropriate behavior.

Tug builds confidence

Once they get the hang of it, shy or anxious dogs love tug. Bringing out the rope toy in an otherwise stressful environment can help distract your timid pup from what’s making them nervous. Sometimes dogs that are stressed are too stressed to eat the treat you’re offering. Try a dog toy to get their attention instead. Playing tug is a great outlet for draining nervous energy as your dog grows more sure of himself.

It strengthens bonds

Dog owners who play tug (or any game for that matter) with their dogs build stronger bonds. Your dog loves nothing more than your time and attention, and you will build trust in a fun way as a result.

The Rules of Tug

dog tug toy. why do dogs like tug of war

Dogs play tug of war for a fun time. Tug is a great game and a great way for your pup to get physical exercise, but it’s nothing without knowing the ground rules and having a little self-control. Once your adult dog knows the rules, he can enjoy all of the benefits of interactive tug-of-war games.

Certified Behavior Consultant and dog trainer Pat Miller lays out some of the key rules of tug in Whole Dog Journal. Here are some she recommends.

1. You’re in charge

You, the human, are in charge of the game. Everything from when the game starts to when it’s game over. Let your dog know this. He shouldn’t lunge for the tug-of-war toy when you hold it up. Only let him grab it with your permission. You can tell him to sit or lie down before rewarding him with the toy.

If he tries to take it before you say it’s OK, then the toy goes away. Try again until he understands that immediately grabbing what he wants without a second thought isn’t going to get him anywhere.

2. Tug stops when you say so

Playing tug is a great opportunity to practice self-control with your dog. Every once in a while when playing, tell your dog the “give,” “drop it,” or another release command. After he drops it, reward him with a treat and start the game again. Using positive reinforcement, your dog is learning that giving the toy doesn’t mean the fun stops! Your dog wins a treat after all.

3. Teeth stay on one end

Avoid dog bites. If your dog’s teeth start to creep up the rope or tug toy toward your hand, the game stops. Put away the toy for a few seconds before giving it back to him. Repeat if the teeth get too close again. He’ll slowly begin to understand that the fun activity keeps going when his mouth stays at a distance.

To ensure his mouth is far enough away from your hand, you’ll need a long enough tug toy. The Invincibles snake squeaky toy is a favorite for dogs who love tug.

4. Tug side-to-side

Only tug in a side-to-side motion rather than up and down. Jerking your dog’s head up and down can result in a spine injury.

The Best Dog Tug Toys

Now that you know tug of war isn’t going to turn your pup into a demon dog, you can look into what kind of toy is suitable for them. Luckily, we’ve got some great dog tug toy options.

1. Invincibles Dog Tug Toy Snake Plush

dog tug toy snake

This heavy-duty tug toy is over five feet long! The XXL size of this dog tug toy is the PERFECT solution for dogs who need to keep their distance from whoever is on the other end during play. Dura-tuff inner lining and double-stiched seams keep it intact longer. Invincibles squeakers keep squeaking if punctured by chewers mistaking it for a dog chew toy. Loved by large dogs, medium dogs, and small dogs alike, it’s available in multiple sizes xx-large, x-large, medium, and small on our website and on Amazon.

2. Ropiez Rope Tug Toy

dog tug toy

A classic tough dog toy, but with health benefits. The cotton-blend fibers of this rope dog toy help clean dogs’ teeth while they chew on the rope, promoting dental health while they play! The 4-knot rope is a great size for tug-o-war play or interactive fetch play. Don’t settle for 1 rope toy when you can have two for double the fun!

3. Longidudes Plush Dog Tug Toys

longidudes dog tug toy

An ultra-long plush dog tug toy that’s as cuddly as it is durable. Soft on the outside for comfortable cuddle sessions but tough on the inside thanks to the unique K9 Tuff Guard technology featuring denier canvas lining, nylon-fused backing, and double-stitched seams. A plush toy designed to take tug-of-war games to the next level with three large squeakers and crinkle material that dogs find irresistible!

4. Thunda Tugga

is tug of war bad for dogs

Thunda Tugga and Thunda Tugga Leggy dog tug toys are perfect for taking your games of tug-of-war to the next level. Thunda Tugga Leggies come with 14 individual squeakers in the legs that activate when tugged by your pooch while extra squeakers in the head and body activate when bitten. The arms of this dog pull toy are made up of twisted rope to act as a handle when playing with your dog.

5. Squeaker Matz

dog tug toy

These soft plush dog toys are made with multiple rows of squeakers that mimic bubble wrap to keep your pup engaged for hours! The flat and floppy body is great for interactive games of tug of war and chasing whether you have one dog or more. Squeaker Matz come in a variety of animal and holiday characters that you can choose to fit your pup’s personality. Squeakers are not puncture-proof and need to be removed if torn out or punctured by a curious and rambunctious pup.

6. Springys

springys dog tug toy

These plushy and washable dog tug toys are designed with one continuous, stretchy bungee rope so your pup can tug for hours on end. Crinkly material stuffed throughout their middle and a large grunting noisemaker in the head add stimulating elements to keep your dog engaged for interactive play. A fun playtime companion for your little tugger.

Is Tug of War Bad for Dogs? The Verdict.

dog playing with rope dog tug toy

As long as you have worked with your dog to understand the rules and watch your dog’s body language, tug is a perfectly good game to play! It’s not going to change your dog’s behavior negatively if you do it the right way and have the right tug of war dog toys.

At the same time, tug of war with dogs isn’t for everyone. Fetch isn’t for every dog, either. Some dogs might get way too overstimulated and have those blinders on that prevent them from listening to commands.

Whatever your dog’s favorite game, there’s something for everyone.

Checkout our website for more tug toys, natural rubber toys, puppy toys, puppy teething toys, tennis balls, Firehose Fetch toys, and more!