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.

How to Socialize Your Dog

Reprinted with permission from

Socializing your dog is one of the most important aspects of your dog’s training

Socialization is an often talked about and mostly misunderstood topic amongst dog owners and even dog trainers.  Many schools and trainers even offer socialization classes that are all but useless and actually teach bad habits.  Many feel that it is taking your dog out to play with other dogs.  That can certainly be part of it – but if that is the extent of socializing your dog – you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to help your dog grow and develop.

Real socialization means teaching your dog that the world it lives in contains many things and it is a safe and positive place.
Miriam Webster defines Socialization as
Simple Definition of socialize

  • : to talk to and do things with other people in a friendly way
Full Definition of socialize
  1. 1:  to make socialespecially  :  to fit or train for a social environment
The full definition should be your goal with your dog.  Teaching your dog to fit in to the world around it.

How to socialize your dog

To socialize your dog means to expose it to the world around it. In other words – “see/hear/touch/smell & explore this – it is part of our environment and now let’s move on.  It’s no big deal.

Lincoln – the large black and tan mix was very dog aggressive prior to his training. Rigorous obedience and very careful and calculated socialization transformed him into a new dog. See his video here.

I want my dog to be neutral or positive to most things – neutral is my overall preference.
I don’t want my dog to become overstimulated every time she sees another person, dog, cat squirrel or car/bis/bike etc …
if my dog is neutral to these things – that means she feels comfortable and accepts everything around her as part of her “normal”. Neutral also means that it is easier for her to focus on me than if she is overly stimulated by them.

Puppies like children need to feel comfortable in the world they live in

Think of how we expose our kids to the world around them: We bring them places with us – careful to not force them into situations they are not equipped to deal with. Gradually we introduce little stressors when the timing is right and appropriate for that individual child.

The goal should be to have a well balanced dog

We don’t force them to play with or say hi to or hug every person they see.  We want to build a sense of well being and confidence as well as healthy interaction and manners.  Balance is the key and too many trainers and people socialize their dogs in a way that teaches the dog bad habits such as getting overexcited when they see other dogs or people. Often they will even force dogs into situations they should not be in in an effort to “make them more social” and this leads to higher levels of aggression and other problem behaviours.
Helping a dog overcome a fear of stairs – video

Pro Dog Training Tip #1

When socializing my dogs I make sure to be the centre of focus and fun. In other words – we go out and explore and as much fun as they have meeting people and dogs and exploring the environment – the most fun they have is with me.  This really helps in training – because they want to be with me more than anywhere else.

Bonus Pro Dog Training Tip #2

If your dog is particularly stressed in a specific setting or environment – make a point of taking it there and feeding your dog there for several days.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly this helps normalize the environment in your dog’s mind.  Some dogs make skip a meal or two but most will get right into it once they get past the initial hump.  An added bonus is that if you plan on travelling with your dog it is great that they learn to it wherever you off them a meal.  My dogs have eaten in the car/van/truck, in a parking lot, even on the side of a highway or parked at a gas station while on road trips.