Tugging With a Dog – Rules, Mistakes and Myths


The game of tugging can be a great way to release energy for your dog. Unfortunately, many people misunderstand this game and therefore do not allow their dog to realize his predator energy in this game.

Myths associated with the game of tugging

  • Tugging makes a dog aggressive
  • You should not look your dog in the eye while you are playing
  • You must prove to your dog that you are the leader before playing this game
  • Pullovers allow the dog to dominate the person.

In fact, these are all really myths. If you know and follow the simple rules, the game will never get out of hand. Pullovers can be used not only as a game, but also as an important element of dog training. Tugging allows you to train your dog to concentrate on your actions and control his desires.

Following 4 simple rules will allow you full control of the game.

Rules for the game of tugging with your dog

  1. Rule 1: The dog only picks up the toy on command. You must enter a marker word, such as “grab”, which will signify that the game has begun. After that word “revive” the toy and allow the dog to chase it. This will teach the dog to wait before running toward the toy.
  2. Rule 2. The dog should let go of the toy on command. You can use words like “give” or “toss.” In the beginning, you can trade the toy for a piece of treat so that the dog knows that play is always followed by something else enjoyable. Over time, you can give up the treat and reward your dog for doing it correctly by resuming the game.
  3. Rule 3: Play stops if your dog’s teeth have touched your skin. Whether the dog accidentally touched you or did it on purpose, the game is over for today. You can enter a marker word that will indicate that the dog has hurt you: “ouch,” “hurt,” “bad.” This word will mean that for today the dog has chosen not to play anymore.
  4. Rule 4. Check how the system works. This means that as you play, you will ask the dog to give up the toy unexpectedly, and then also offer to play unexpectedly. If the dog doesn’t follow the rules, then the game is over. A dog who enjoys the game will quickly learn that it is in his best interest to follow your rules.

Mistakes when playing tug-of-war with a dog

1. Incorrect toy

  • Wrong: Small, hard, unpleasant material.
  • Correct: Large, soft, rubber band (stretchy).

2. Short Toy

The dog is slow because the surface to bite is too small. Unintentionally the dog bites your hand, your reaction kills the “mood” for play. (Ouch! That hurts!)

A short toy forces you to bend over the dog during playtime. This generates additional “pressure”(moral) on the dog, not every animal will like that.

Lifting the dog in front of you all the time deprives him of the ability to control the situation and deprives him of fun.

The solution: use a long toy. Play while sitting on the floor (at dog level).

3. “Suicidal Hare”

No normal hare waits for a dog to come to him and jumps into his mouth himself.

Solution: always start the game by moving the toy away from the dog until he grabs it firmly (note: “firmly” is a different concept for different dogs, if you’re just starting to play with your four-legged man, don’t expect an iron grip).

4. Shaking, twisting and letting go.

We see the dog deprived of any opportunity to actively participate in the game (it just hangs on the toy). This tugging may be the reason for refusing to return the toy to the owner, as the game is not particularly enjoyable for the dog.

Solution: The key is to keep the toy taut all the time, but also not to pressure the dog (morally) all the time. We must learn to push as much as necessary, but at the same time to stop in time and let the dog control the game too, to take the initiative.

How to add pressure?

  • Gaze intently into the dog’s eyes
  • Pull the dog closer to you.
  • Hover over the dog
  • Touch the dog
  • Shake toy

How to relieve pressure?

  • Avert your gaze
  • Turn to your dog sideways, or even backwards (without stopping the game)
  • Allow the dog to increase the distance, letting the toy gradually slip out of your hand as the dog pulls.
  • A fun game of tugging leads to the dog wanting to continue and returning to the owner with the toy himself.

5. A bad end to the game.

How do you retrieve the toy?

Bad options:

  • Lift the toy up, hoping the dog will let go
  • Unclenching his teeth.
  • Trying to exchange the toy for food without giving it (the food) value or making it interesting for the dog

What to do?

You can trade for food by making the process fun and interesting. The food can be thrown rolling around on the floor, causing the desire to “hunt” for it. Meanwhile, the toy is discreetly taken away by the host.

Two toys. Let the dog win (take the toy away from you), you always have a second toy to continue the activity.

Autumn Jolley
Autumn Jolley
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