Tug of war is defined as a sport that pits two teams of equal strength against each other to obtain the same thing. So, is it a good idea or a bad idea to play tug of war with your dog?
You’ll find pros and cons, and different opinions like any subject you research online. There will be those who think tug of war helps your dog to burn off energy just like walking or running. Not sure I can see how this could be true, considering that the dog is basically standing in place, pulling something with its teeth. These “founts of information” will tell you how misunderstood the activity of tug of war is and that it’s old school to consider tug of war to be an aggression-inspiring game. But if you read further into these resources of information, they will explain that there are definite rules to follow like; making sure your dog understands and will comply with the command to sit, take it and drop it. Will your dog do that?
Some sources say that it’s important to win the game in order to teach your dog to respect you and your authority. Right here, is where we’re going straight to the “Who is Alpha?” thing.
Internet research will yield data that goes further to state, engaging in the game of “tug of war” should only be played by a human that will win! This tells me that this enlightening advice suggests, not only should the human and canine be of equal strength, as the definition of tug of war suggests, but the human must be powerful enough and determined enough to not allow the canine to ever gain control. Can you do that? Clearly, this is not a kid and dog activity.
The second important rule comes into play after the game is over and you win every round. Instructions dictate that you immediately put the tug of war object away, reinforcing your dog’s understanding, that you are in charge. Let me know how works out.
So, what does Jenna have to say about all this? Well, it seems like a lot of effort and a lot of rules to follow with very little benefit and much detriment. Dogs are not people too and people are not dogs. We are supposed to be smarter, and we are supposed to set the bar. Children are scratched and bitten by dogs often because they play with the dog on the ground and the child is perceived by the dog to be another puppy. Pulling an object from a dog’s mouth will only validate and encourage the behavior of NOT giving an object to you and snapping to regain its grasp should you happen to get possession of it. No, I don’t believe that tug of war will make your dog aggressive. But I do believe that it can encourage aggression and at the very least, it does enable your dog to act out any negative, unwanted behaviors like growling, guarding resources, baring teeth, inappropriate chewing/destroying items, and establishing dominance; all of which are undesirable and require professional training to eliminate.
Inciting a dog to grab and pull an item from your hand goes against all my better judgment and years of training family dogs to be members of the family, that can be trusted to interact appropriately, gently, and lovingly with all other members of the family. It worries me that if there are children in the household, a child will touch one of the dog’s toys and the dog will snap at the child. This is referred to as guarding resources. Additionally, like me, you may have large breed dogs and small or toy breed dogs. My large breed dogs were always taught to be gentle with the smaller dogs and never take toys away from them.
Puppies should be taught at an early age to “drop it” or “give”. Playing fetch or ball are safe and fun games to play with your dog and your dog will benefit from the exercise. Any nipping or biting should be discouraged and corrected with proper training methods as soon as they begin.