Is Tug Of War Bad For Puppies? | Is This Bad For Growth and Development

Tug of war is one of the best fun games you can play with your puppy to strengthen your bond with each other. It mimics predation which is a natural instinct of all canines. With this said, choosing tug of war as one of the games you can collaborate with your puppy seems to be a great option. However, playing tug of war with puppies also comes with a lot of controversies like Dominance and Pack Theory. So the big question remains, is tug of war bad for puppies? Is it bad for growth and development? 

There’s nothing wrong with playing tug of war with your puppy if it’s done correctly. It’s beneficial to your puppy’s physical and mental growth. It can help him to develop his jaw, gain confidence, and reinforce numerous basic commands. Playing games with your dog, such as tug of war, is a great way to teach him about rules and boundaries. It is an excellent workout for your puppy to burn off excess energy before bedtime. Furthermore, there’s no better way to bond with your dog than by playing a game that stimulates lots of eye contact and allows you to get up close and personal with him.

Puppies can begin playing tug of war once they have stopped teething and all of their adult teeth have emerged, which takes about six months after birth. Puppies can already play tug-of-war between the ages of 6 and 10 months, but only with caution and without excessive pulling.

The above is a brief overview of why tug of war is beneficial to pups. However, as previously said, there are several beliefs that are associated with this practice. Continue reading to find out more about these ideas, whether or not they are based on fact or science, and other interesting discussions. 

The Tug of War Aggression and Dominance Theory

The Aggressive Theory

Having your dog participate in Tug of War does not make him aggressive in any way. Not only will a well-handled game of tug not lead your dog to become violent, but it can also assist in keeping them happier, healthier, and better trained in the long run.

Your pooch’s aggression could be a result of the way you play this game with him and not because of the game itself. If you follow the principles of not letting your dog feel like he is in control, stopping when things go out of hand, and just having full control of the situation at all times, there is no cause for any long-term aggression to develop in your canine.

The Alpha Pack Theory (The Dominance Theory)

Another fallacy that continues to be spread is that by playing tug with your dog, you are encouraging them to strive to dominate you. Tug of war, on the other hand, stimulates cooperation. It’s not you vs. the dog, it’s you and the dog vs. the tug-of-war toy. It’s worth emphasizing, though, that the game should be initiated by the pet owner, as aggression and dominance may be an issue if the dog initiates the game.

Furthermore, it is not true that you must “win” the game 100% of the time. Allowing your puppy to win does not mean he will believe he is the alpha and will have dominance over you. Your dog is just delighted to have an outlet for their pent-up energy and to be able to enjoy some quality time with you. When you introduce tug in an organized manner, you will be teaching your dog more manners in the process. When you allow your dog to win, they love it and grow to appreciate you all the more for it.

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What are the Advantages of Playing Tug-of-War with Your Puppy?

There are a variety of reasons why tug of war is beneficial to your puppy. Here are a few examples:

  • EXERCISE

Tug of war is a terrific way to burn off some excess energy. If the weather prevents you from taking your typical lengthy walks—if it is really snowy, for example, then playing tug indoors may be a perfect form of alternative exercise for your dog, and because it is also mentally stimulating, it will help to tire your dog out even more. On the other hand, even if you have lots of opportunities to go for walks, a controlled game of tug is a great game to play for additional enrichment, bonding, exercise, and training.

  • COLLABORATION

Playing is a terrific method to create trust between a dog owner and their puppy, and tug is a fun game to play that requires both physical and mental stimulation.  Tug of war encourages a lot of eye contact, which helps you and your dog form a bond.

Tug-of-war is also a terrific way to floss your dog’s teeth, especially if you use tug toys that are specifically made to clean your puppy’s teeth.

Avoid using any type of fabric strips and other materials that are not specifically designed for tug of war, such as old clothing or plastic bags. These materials are easily broken, and it’s possible that some of the pieces will be swallowed by your puppy.

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  • TEETH CLEANING

As mentioned above, with the help of tug toys specially designed to help clean your puppy’s teeth, playing tug of war is also a terrific method to floss your dog’s teeth.

Never use fabric strips that haven’t been made for tugs-of-war, such as old clothing, plastic bags, or other materials. These materials are easily broken, and it’s likely that some of the pieces will be swallowed by your puppy.

  • SATISFACTION OF INSTINCTS

Whether dogs are practicing for the kill or preparing to rip apart their food, tug is an instinctive game that serves a purpose. Because your dog is unlikely to be able to engage in either of these activities on a daily basis, tug is an excellent approach to satisfy his urge to do so! Without activities that satisfy your puppy’s instinct to chew and wrestle, your puppy may resort into playing and destroying your furniture and belongings.

  • BOOST CONFIDENCE

A good game of tug may bring out the best in some shy dogs. Getting your dog to participate in a game of tug demands significant engagement on their part, which can help to increase their confidence and bring them out of their shell. By winning at tug of war, your pup is more likely to remain engaged and more willing to take risks in other activities. 

  • TRAINING

You can use tug of war as a training reward or even as a technique to teach your dog new skills, such as listening to your commands. Many police dogs and agility sports dogs, particularly those who are highly motivated by tugging, can be rewarded with a brief tug session after successfully completing the desired task rather than being given a food reward.

When it comes to dogs who are impulsive, easily over-aroused, and too fast to respond, tugging and teaching them to release when asked can help them learn how to manage their impulses.

  • DISTRACTION

If your puppy enjoys tug, it might be a great way to keep them occupied during an anxiety episode or when they are in an uncomfortable setting. In many cases, it can assist them in controlling their anxiety and making them feel calmer overall. Many dog sports competitors would engage in a tug-of-war with their dogs in between competition rounds in order to keep them focused and, in some cases, even relaxed.

Rules in Playing Tug of War with Your Puppy

  1. ALWAYS INITIATE THE GAME

The purpose of this rule is to teach your dog that being aggressive and demanding with the toy does not win him the right to play. Don’t engage with your dog if they bring their favorite tug-of-war toy and drop it in your lap or at your feet. Taking the toy and starting to play will make your canine think that they are in charge of this relationship. The more often this occurs, the more your dog will learn that aggressive/dominant behaviors bring them what they want in the future.

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  1. ESTABLISHED COMMANDS WHEN PLAYING

Allowing your puppy to obey commands is a good method to teach him impulse control. When playing tug of war, teach your dog different cues. Teach him when to pick up the toy, when the game is paused, and when the game is totally over.

The most important cue is when you want to end the game with your pup. Before you start playing tug with your puppy, you should be able to rely on the fact that when things get out of control, you can control your puppy to release the toy.

  1. STOP WHEN YOUR PUPPY TOUCHES ANY PART OF YOU

The game is over anytime your dog’s mouth comes in contact with any part of your body, including your hands, arms, legs, or even your clothing. Although this may occur accidentally at first, your pup will develop bite inhibition if it is tolerated, which can be dangerous in the long term. This is where the “Drop It” cue comes in handy.

So choose a tug toy that is the right size for your dog to succeed with the no-skin-contact guideline. It will be tough for your puppy to participate in the game without accidentally touching any part of your body if the toy is either small or too lengthy for him. Choosing the right toy for your dog is setting him up for success.

  1. STICK WITH SHORT SESSIONS

10 to 30 seconds of tug at a time are fine. Longer sessions can occasionally cause your dog to become over-aroused. It is better to play tug of war as a reward in between training for basic commands. 

  1. ALLOW YOUR PUPPY TO WIN

While some fear this would lead to aggressive and dominant behavior, your puppy will quickly lose interest if he realizes he has no chance of winning. Winning increases your puppy’s self-confidence. However, if the dog misbehaves during the game, you should be the one who gets the toy. 

When Is It Not Appropriate to Play Tug of War with My Puppy?

  1. When Your Dog is Resource Guarding

If you have a dog that is exhibiting indications of defending their toys or being possessive with them, we recommend that you work on teaching them that giving up their toy means that more nice things will come their way before you start playing tug of war with them. Encouraging your puppy to participate in tug of war while they are already possessed by a toy can result in aggressiveness. While the game of tug isn’t teaching them to be aggressive; taking a treasured possession from an anxious dog can lead to over-arousal, which is a bad combination. While tug will not make a dog aggressive, if the dog is already demonstrating negative behaviors, the tug game may aggravate the problem.

©The Collared Scholar
  1. When Your Puppy Gets Over-Aroused When Playing

While you want your dog to get enthusiastic and enjoy a game of tug, if they become overly eager, refuse to listen to commands, or become too rough, it’s time to stop the game for a while.

  1. Involvement of Children in the Game

It’s definitely advisable to play a less raucous game than tug with dogs and little children. Games such as fetch or hide and seek are usually more appropriate for children. The strength of a dog might easily result in a child being pulled over during tug of war or an accidental nip, making children terrified.

  1. When Your Puppy Has Fragile Teeth

It goes without saying that dogs with dental problems should not play tug of war. While those puppy teeth will eventually fall out, losing them during a game of tug may cause the direction of your dog’s adult teeth to shift, so be sure your pup has been dentally cleared by your veterinarian to play tug before you begin.

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