Unsure owners often ask me if it is OK to play tug with their dogs. Will it lead to behavior problems? Teach the pup to be aggressive?
Done correctly, tug is a fun and appropriate way to interact with your dog, and can burn energy, increase your bond and be used as a reward for a command well done.
So go ahead, enjoy a tug session with your dog, just follow these rules!
- Rule 1 – You initiate the game and you keep the toy. Your tug toy should be long to discourage grabbing close to hands (see rule #2), brought out for tug sessions and put away when the game is over. You keeping custody of the toy is especially important for pushy dogs who may not want the game to end!
- Rule 2 – If your dog grabs your skin or clothes (even by accident) the game ends. Take the toy and walk away. You can try again after a few minutes.
- Rule 3 – Teach your dog to drop it. Tug should only be played in a controlled manner. Frequently during the game stop pulling and ask your dog to drop it (you can show him a treat at first until he gets the idea). When he lets go ask him to sit or down, and restart the tug session as a reward when he complies. If you dog gets out of control or begins to jump on you or grab at the toy before you have offered it end the game temporarily.
*A note on growling. Growling is a normal part of play but sometimes can be difficult to interpret. If you dog begins to growl during a tug session take his overall body language into account. Is he happy and bouncy, with a relaxed body? He’s just having fun.