Sunday, February 8, 2015

Playing tug with your dog.

If you spend enough time in the dog world, you will hear a lot of seriously ignorant things.

What I read today almost made me fall out of my chair:

"I'm not too into tug of war with dogs. Yes, you can use the tug of war to teach "drop it", but you can do it other ways too, without tug of war. Tug of war is teaching your dog to hold onto things once they get their mouth around it & then to tug while it's in their mouth. It doesn't mean it mkaes them more aggressive, but it does teach them how to interact with things that they may incounter & since your using a hide, they may try it when they see a real one. It wouldn't be their fault, they would associate with their play time & think that's what you do when you incounter things like that. It may be their favorite toy, but do you really want your dog to learn to hang off of things & pull? What if your dog gets loose one day, latches onto something & your not around to give it the "leave it" or "drop it" command. I taught my Pit not to play tug of war. I didn't want her to learn she could latch onto things, I also don't play it with my Belgian for the same reason. When they go into a frantic state, their minds sometimes will shut off to our voices, & it can be hard to snap them out of it. Also, if you do play tug of war, it is best to only do it for a short period & let the dog ALWAYS win. Let it go after a short period of time & let tem celebrate that they won. It builds their confidence. I'm sure I'll be attacked by some people, but this is how I feel, & I think people should think about it more before they start doing it with their dogs."

I don't even know where to begin!

Playing tug with your dog does NOT make it aggressive, it does NOT make them think they can grab anything, just like not playing tug does NOT make it so your pit bull with NEVER grab something!

This chick is crazy - but she's not the only one. I have heard in the past of people being 'afraid' to teach their dog to play tug because they thought it would make the dog aggressive.

Playing tug with your dog gives your dog an outlet for the natural drive to grab things, shake them, pull on them, etc. If you own a Pit Bull it even further gives them an outlet to do something that comes natural to them.

Honestly, I myself have fallen into this way of thinking. I did not give my dogs enough credit. In the past when I first got Seppel I was concerned taking him lure coursing would further feed his desire to chase small things, since I have a cat I was worried he would leave the coursing field and take his desire to chase home.

True fact: the desire to chase things is already there! It doesn't matter if I take him to go chase after a plastic bag or not! He's a dog with high prey drive! Allowing him to partake in a sport where he can use the drive he was bred to have in a safe manner is a positive thing.

As it is also, there are sight hounds that will not course because they prefer live game - they know the difference between hunting an animal and chasing a plastic bag.

I think it is a ridiculous thought, especially for the OP above that because she has not allowed her Pit Bull to tug, that her dog will never on instinct grab another animal. This is a risk with any animal that has high prey drive. Hence "high prey drive" meaning they have a high propensity for wanting to chase and/or kill things!

I also do not think that it really matters what you use as a tug. I don't believe using a piece of fur will teach your dog to go after other small animals - again, if they are playing tug or chasing a lure - that drive is already there. They know that the animal fur is not a live animal. The OP was referencing the fur in the above post because the person she was responding to had a tug toy set up that used an animal fur as the tug.

Another thing I want to comment on is that your dog does NOT always have to win in tug.* If your dog has adequate drive, they don't care how many times they win - for some dogs it's the act of tugging, or the act of chasing and catching. Not the actual prize itself. You really have to know your dog. My dog Seth is pretty low prey drive and pretty low toy drive. He will play tug but I have to be careful with him because he's very sensitive about it and it is easy for him to get his feelings hurt. With Seppel I can be very aggressive and he doesn't bat an eye. For him a lot of it is the act of grabbing the thing, shaking it or pulling. If I let him win - he pushes the tug toy into me because he wants me to engage him more. 

I have also heard of people saying you should NEVER let your dog win a game of tug. That YOU should always win because if you let your dog win it makes them alpha or some other sort of BS. Like I said above - when I let Seppel win by having the toy, he brings it back to me because he wants me to play more. He 'outs' when I ask him to out, and he plays with me when I want him to play. While your dog doesn't have to win all the time, it's important to let them win some of the time. If you were playing a game, wouldn't you want to win sometimes?

So in closing, it is absolutely okay to play tug with your dog.

*If you have a dog just learning how to play tug, or are using tug training for sport - often in the beginning you do allow them to win all the time. The OP is right that winning does build confidence. As with anything you want it to be a good positive experience. However especially with apbt a lot of them have a natural drive for gripping and tugging and a dog who is already confident doesn't actually have to always win. You have to judge each dog as an individual.


A video posted by Suzanne (@plebayo) on


  1. This is such a great post!! I've come across so many people who have weird misconceptions about playing tug.

    I also agree with you on the part about sight hounds and prey. Zoe does not give a crap about the flirt pole and she does not care about a real fur tug. She cares about the live animal. She doesn't want to play with fake toys! That's a waste of her time, lol. Where as Phoenix doesn't care as much for live prey and she will play with the toys.

    When we play tug, we have rules. Phoenix is not allowed to take the toy until I tell her she can and she must out immediately when I tell her to. I would say that I let her win 75% of the time. She does the same thing as Seppel and pushes the toy back into my hand to play again, though.

    1. As far as lure coursing/tug/flirt pole etc goes I think that is the difference between play and prey drive, but that's a post for another time so I didn't get into it. A dog can have prey drive but have no toy drive. But it also shows that a dog can see the difference between something alive and something not.

      People are just so weird sometimes! Like, I wonder where these rumors start, ya know?

  2. Silly humans. Tug used to be my favorite game. But in my senior years, not so much.