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Should You Win At Tug Of War With Your Dog



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Playing tug-of-war with your dog is a common and enjoyable game for both the pet and the owner.

However, a question often arises among pet owners: should you let your dog win at tug-of-war?

This topic has been widely discussed by several experts and dog lovers.

Some believe that letting your dog win can nurture a solid rapport and make the game fun for them, while others suggest that winning should be a balanced affair — the dog shouldn’t always win.

It’s also important to note that winning doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is trying to dominate; they’re simply having a good time socializing and enjoying the game.

Key Takeaway

  • No, you should not always win at tug-of-war with your dog; instead, allow a balanced mix of wins and losses to maintain the game’s fun and prevent reinforcing dominant behaviors.
  • Playing tug-of-war with your dog can promote impulse control, build confidence, strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners, allow dogs to practice instinctual behavior, provide mental and physical exercise, satisfy their instincts, and teach them necessary skills for safe play.

Should You Win At Tug Of War With Your Dog

Should You Win At Tug Of War With Your Dog

No, you should not win at tug of war with your dog. It may be tempting to want to show off your dog’s strength and obedience by winning a game of tug of war, but it can lead to behavioral problems in the long run.

While playing games like tug-of-war can be fun and help build a strong bond between you and your pup, winning the game sets up an imbalance of power in which your dog may become aggressive or afraid.

Additionally, prolonged tug-of-war games can lead to injuries for both owner and canine alike.

Instead of playing a game with a definitive winner and loser, it’s best to engage your pup in activities that focus on obedience, such as agility training and other forms of exercise.

This way you can reward your pup’s success without creating an imbalance of power between the two of you.

Is It OK To Play Tug Of War With Your Dog?

Yes, it is generally okay to play tug of war with your dog. Tug of war is a great way to exercise your dog physically and mentally.

It can help keep them engaged, burn off energy, and strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

However, it’s important to establish rules and boundaries for the game to ensure it remains safe and fun.

For instance, the game should stop immediately if your dog’s teeth touch your hand or if they begin to show aggressive behavior.

Also, it’s recommended to let your dog win sometimes to boost their confidence while also maintaining a balance to not reinforce aggressive or dominant behaviors.

Always remember to supervise the game and make sure it is played in a controlled, respectful manner.

What Are The Benefits Of Playing Tug-Of-War With Your Dog?

  • Tug-of-war can promote impulse control in dogs (source: akc.org)
  • It can help build confidence in your dog (source: akc.org)
  • This game strengthens the bond between dogs and their owners (source: akc.org)
  • Tug-of-war allows dogs to practice instinctual behavior, mimicking what a predator does after a hunt (source: preventivevet.com)
  • It serves as a great way to mentally and physically exercise your dog (source: puppyleaks.com)
  • The game can be a satisfying outlet for your dog’s instincts (source: k9ofmine.com)
  • It can be an engaging and fun way to teach your dog the necessary skills for safe play (source: thewildest.com)
  • Contrary to common misconceptions, tug-of-war does not inherently promote aggressive or dominant behavior (source: outwardhound.com)

Do Dogs Get Aggressive With Tug of War?

While tug of war can be a fun and healthy game for most dogs, it has the potential to provoke aggressive behavior in some cases.

This is especially true if the dog has a high prey drive or has not been properly trained to understand boundaries and play rules.

If the game is played too roughly or without clear rules, a dog may become overly excited and exhibit signs of aggression, such as growling, snapping, or refusing to let go of the toy.

However, this doesn’t mean that tug of war inherently causes aggression. Many dogs can play this game without any issues, provided it is supervised and conducted in a controlled manner.

If you notice any signs of aggression during play, it’s recommended to stop the game immediately and consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.


Q: What are the benefits of playing tug of war with dogs?

A: Playing tug-of-war with your dog can provide several benefits. It is a great way to exercise their body and mind, help in their training and obedience, and also serve as a fun bonding activity.

Q: How can I teach my dog to play tug-of-war?

A: To teach your dog how to play tug-of-war, start by selecting a durable and safe tug toy. Encourage them to grab the toy and tug gently. Reward them with praise and treats when they engage with the toy. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of the game.

Q: Is playing tug-of-war with your dog bad for them?

A: No, playing tug-of-war, when done correctly, is not bad for dogs. It is a natural game that dogs enjoy. However, make sure you establish certain rules and boundaries during the game to prevent any potential accidents or aggressive behavior.

Q: Should I let go of the toy if my dog doesn’t let go during tug-of-war?

A: If your dog doesn’t let go of the toy during tug-of-war, it’s important to train them to “drop it” or “let go.” Use positive reinforcement techniques and offer a treat or praise when they release the toy. Consistency and patience are key.

Q: Can playing tug-of-war make my dog aggressive?

A: No, playing tug-of-war itself does not make dogs aggressive. However, it’s important to monitor the game and set boundaries to prevent any excessive roughness or escalation. Proper training and socialization are essential to maintain a well-behaved and non-aggressive dog.

Q: How can I end the game of tug-of-war with my dog?

A: To end the game of tug-of-war, simply ask your dog to “drop it” or “let go.” Reward them with praise and a treat when they release the toy. It’s important to establish control and teach your dog that you have the final say in the game.

Q: Do all dogs like to play tug-of-war?

A: No, not all dogs enjoy playing tug-of-war. Some individuals may have different preferences or may not have been exposed to the game before. It’s important to respect your dog’s preferences and find other engaging activities that they enjoy.

Q: Is it safe to play tug-of-war with two dogs?

A: Playing tug-of-war with two dogs can be safe if proper precautions are taken. Ensure that both dogs are well-trained, calm, and have good social skills. Monitor the game closely to prevent any aggressive behavior or accidental injuries. If any signs of aggression arise, it’s advisable to end the game immediately.

Q: How much tug-of-war should I play with my dog?

A: The amount of tug-of-war you play with your dog depends on their age, size, and energy level. It’s essential to provide them with mental and physical stimulation but also to balance the game with other activities. Consult with your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer for personalized recommendations.

In Conclusion

Choosing to play tug-of-war with your dog is an excellent way to have fun and bond with them.

However, it’s important to be aware of how the game can become too competitive for a dog if the rules are not followed correctly and if both sides get too into it.

To ensure that both you and your pup have a great time playing, it’s important to be aware of these guidelines and follow them closely.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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