Tug of War with our Dogs

Judea, deaf dog, waits to be told that she can play.

Judea, deaf dog, waits to be told that she can play.

Tug-of-war is a long-time game that we humans love playing with our loving, playful canine family members. But, to play safely and successfully, we MUST play by the rules.

Most of the information that I am presenting to help us experience successful play is gleaned from an article that is several years old and written by Pat Miller for the Whole Dog Journal. While published in November of 2013, it continues to offer great guidelines for playing tug-of-war with our beloved dogs. The bottom line—we are the "masters," and we must remain in control in order to provide for the safety and protection of two-legged and four-legged family members. Let's have fun, safe playtime.

Rules for Playing Tug of War With Your Dog
Information excerpted from an article by Pat Miller

Tug is a great game to play with your dog to work off energy and allow us to roughhouse safely. It won’t make him “dominant,” and it won’t make our dogs aggressive, as long as we play by the rules. And it’s the process of being able to follow the rules and exhibit a degree of self-control that makes this game such a great one for Do-Over Dogs. The rules are designed to remind our pups that we are the ones who are the leaders—in charge.  Following the rules also let our dogs know which behaviors are acceptable. 

1. Use a toy or rope that is sturdy and long enough to keep your dog’s teeth away from hands. It should be comfortable for holding during the pulling. Remember to keep the tug toy stored away until it's time to play.

2. Hold out the toy or rope. If your dog lunges for it, make a correction sound and keep it at a distance or behind your back. Be sure to let your dog know that it's your toy. The game is played only when permission is given.

3. Your pup needs to sit until you invite him or her to grab it. Be gentle yet enthusiastic. 

4. During the game, be sure to take breaks which require your dog to give up the toy to you. Again, the toy belongs to the human! The game is played by our rules—not the dog's rules!! And, perhaps most importantly, the human ALWAYS wins—ends up with possession of the toy, not the dog.

5. If the mouth or teeth begin to get too close to your hands, you need to be sure to let your pup know immediately with a positive "correction," taking possession of the rope, and giving a short break from tugging. This sets clear boundaries that our dogs can understand.

6. Similarly, if teeth touch any part of your body or clothing, give a gentle correction immediately and take a break. Depending on the intensity, you might consider putting away the rope or toy for a while.  

7. Store the tug toy until you want to play again. 

8. Small children should NOT play tug with your dog. Older children might be able to handle the game but ONLY if everyone is absolutely certain that all the rules can be followed without exception.

I believe that it's only fair to let our pets know what the rules are in any game or activity. We want to know the rules, so do they!  Happy and safe playing! Create fun times for everyone!

Adapted from Whole Dog Journal's FREE Tip of the Week November 2013.

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