Should you play Tug of War with your dog?

dog training tips

Cow enjoying a game of tug @ home

“Tug of War will make your dog aggressive”

Is a common myth I still hear from people.

I have proven to my clients for over 20 years that this is untrue - and they have learned how to play properly with their dogs and enjoyed the game very much.

Dogs love to bite and pull and thrash. Giving them an outlet for this is constructive and a proactive approach to living with a dog. Expecting them to not want to explore this side of their character is asking for trouble.By encouraging them to bite and focus on the toy - it allows them to have a release and helps prevent problem behaviour. It is also a very bonding experience because you are now sharing a favorite activity with your dog. Quality time.

Will it make my dog dominant or think he’s the boss?

I have never seen a case of playing tug of war with a dog create any dominance issues or create relationship issues between dog and human. If anything - like mentioned earlier it is a bonding and fun experience.If you have concerns that your dog may have doninant traits or your dog challenges you and especially if you have a possesive dog than I would suggest not playing tug with your particular dog.

Should I let my Dog win?

Sure - why not? I let mine win from time to time - and as long as your are in control of the toy and the game - there is no harm in letting your dog win. You can see in the videos below that the dogs win and would rather play with their person than keep the tpy on it’s own.
Havanese puppy training
Playing tug is not just for big dogs.
Monty a 5 month old Havanese puppy enjoys playing tug as well.

Tug of war as a reward in training

Here is a video of Barbara learning how to play tug with Ikie - a young German Shepherd.Ike is a strong dog with lots of character from working lines and playing tug is a hugely rewarding event for him in training.As you can see when Barbara switches him into a heel command Ike is happy to go to work becasue fun things happen when working.

Using tug of war as an advanced training tool

Here is an old video of Roxy - a PitBull who stayed with me for training years ago accompanied by my old Dutch Shepherd hyper. Roxy loved to play tug and I used this opportunity to condition her to work around Hyper and have to control herself both on and off of the toy - not only outing on command but also waiting to be told when she would be allowed to take the toy again. This is especially challenging becasue each dog now feels competitive witht he other one and wants to grab it prematurely to try and control the toy for themselves.
If you pay attention you will see how each dog is respectful of the other dog’s space and are careful to grab the toy at a distance fromt the other dog.
Hyper and Roxy are not buddies and really have not spent any time together before this video was filmed - it was a spur of the moment thing that came to me while working with Roxy and filming her towards the end of her course.
This video makes a HUGE point about tug not making dogs aggressive and about dog training and pitbulls as well.

The above advice is given in a general sense and not intended to be used without professional supervision and/or guidance. Family K9 and Nick Zevgolis assume zero liability in any and all actions arising from utilizing any information found on this website. The dog’s owner assumes all risk and liability fromt heir own dog’s actions. It is recommended that you seek out preofessional advice with regards to any and all training for your dog.

A Dalmatian, A Pitbull and German Shepherd walk into a bar ...

Three different breeds - all with different needs

This is an interesting video - it includes a German Shepherd a Dalmatian and a Pitbull and all 3 dogs have very different temperaments, drives and issues.

Brady is a German Shepherd Dog from Chateauguay, QC who used to pull like mad on leash - was very reactive to other dogs and could get snippy if pushed by them.


Loco is a pit bull from Westmount, QC with both people and dog aggression

He could not focus on a command when another dog or person was around - and his aggression was escalating prior to him coming in for training which was cause for great concern to his owner. His owner was afraid to walk him in public for fear of an aggressive outburst towards people and dogs.

Lekes is a high drive Dalmatian from Gatineau, QC who could not stand still for 5 seconds. He lacked the ability to focus and just wanted to go-go-go.

In fact when his owners drove in from Gatineau, Qc to drop him off - we had to kennel him before chatting about training because he was all over the place and would not stay still - jumping, pulling, whining and crying and carrying on.

Brady the German Shepherd is 5 days into training in this video.

You can see Brady focusing nicely - his heel is coming along, his recall is solid and we are beginning to work on other things in the meantime.
I am pleased with his focus so far which is key to unlocking everything.

Lekes is just under 2 weeks into his training @ this point.

His heel is solid, his recall is great, and you can see his place is outstanding. In fact we have Honey the yellow lab outside running major distraction on Lekes and he rocks place like a champ. Solid.
Remember - he could not stand still without any distraction just under 2 weeks ago.
Big changes for Lekes.

Loco has been in training for a week and a half @ this point

Loco is working with a very boisterous Rott in his background. The Rott is dominant and pushy and has tried to urinate on Loco through the fence a number of times. Loco is also doing great - learning to focus better each day and is easy enough to handle @ this point.
I am not going to sugar coat it - Loco is lazy - you can see he moves slowly through his work - but hey - we can’t all be go getters and as ing as he is obeying and doing his best - that’s good enough for his owner to be able to control him when out for a walk.

What's up @ the kennel First week of April 2015

Porsche, Toby and Chipie showing their progress