5 Benefits of Playing Tug-of-War with Your Dog
Myth: Tug-of-war teaches your dog bad behavior.
Myth: You should never let your dog win tug-of-war.
Truth: Playing tug-of-war with your dog provides them multiple mental, physical, and social benefits!
Don’t let myths about dog tug-of-war discourage you from engaging in this very fun and valuable game with your furry friend! We explore five ways this activity can help fulfill your dog while strengthening the bond you share.
Benefit #1: It Builds Your Dog’s Confidence in Themselves and You
Contrary to the myths, tug-of-war can bring out the best qualities in your furry friend when played correctly. In fact, researchers studied how the game affected dogs’ dominance and attachment behaviors toward their pet parents. They found that dogs who played tug-of-war scored higher in “confident interactivity,” meaning the dog exhibited confidence when playing one-on-one with their human.
They also discovered that dogs were less likely to exhibit aggression if their pet parent initiated tug-of-war. This is why setting the “rules of the game” right from the start is essential! As the pet parent, you decide when it’s time to play. Here are a few tips to establish this dynamic:
- Use a command word to associate the toy with the activity, such as “play” or “tug.”
- As you hold the tug toy, don’t let your dog get a head start in tugging. If they do, drop the toy and wait a few minutes before you restart the game.
- If your dog brings the toy to you, don’t immediately begin tugging. Wait a few minutes until it’s clear that you are the one with the brilliant idea to play tug-of-war!
These “rules” will help ensure your dog doesn’t use just any household object as a tugging toy. Plus, they reinforce that you are the boss of tug time. It won’t be long until you’re both confident in how this tug-of-war thing works!
Benefit #2: It’s a Bonding Activity
Although some may believe tug-of-war with your dog is a game of “pet parent versus dog,” think of it as “pet parent and dog versus toy.” That’s right—you and your furry friend are on a brave mission to bring down the toy, not each other!
You can see this firsthand if you suddenly let go of the toy during a tugging match. Instead of taking the toy out of sight and guarding it, your dog will likely bring it back to you. When they win, they are not trying to dominate you; they’re simply having a good time socializing and want to see who will prevail next. Winning also contributes to benefit #1—it builds confidence!
Benefit #3: It Engages Your Dog’s Natural Instincts
So, why do dogs like tug-of-war so much? Similar to why dogs like squeaky toys, furry friends’ love for tugging can be tied back to their ancestral roots. Centuries ago, dogs in the wild hunted to survive. Therefore, when your dog chases, shakes, and tugs a toy, they’re mimicking how their ancient ancestors used to catch prey. Indulging this innate urge is highly rewarding for your dog!
Benefit #4: It Burns Excess Energy
When the rain is pouring or the temperatures are plummeting, long walks and trips to the dog park aren’t options anymore. An effective way to release all that pent-up energy? You guessed it.
Between gripping, pulling, and focusing on the toy, dog tug-of-war requires your dog to muster up a bit of physical and mental strength. It’s no wonder they let out growls along the way—they’re working hard!
When the weather isn’t on your side, add some more fun to the mix with these cool dog tricks for rainy days.
Benefit #5: It’s a Fun Reward
While pet parents commonly think their dogs are motivated by food, there are many pups who thrive on playtime, too! When you come home from a day at work, engaging in tug-of-war with your dog is an entertaining way to show them some love. After all, they get an opportunity to release their excitement and spend one-on-one time with the opponent they love most: you!
Ready, Set, Tug!
Needless to say, it’s not hard to see why dogs like tug-of-war so much! So, what are you waiting for?! Grab a dog tug toy and start reaping the many benefits of this interactive game with your furry friend.