Tug of War. A simple game to bond with your dog


Most dogs go crazy for a game of tug-of-war. In our house it's a proper David v Goliath encounter with our mini-schnauzer but it could equally be the other way round if you own a Newfoundland.

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A game of tug is a fantastic way to strengthen the bond between you, with the added bonus of providing some mental stimulation and a healthy outlet for those abundant energy reserves. As we know, a bored dog with energy to burn is not a great scenario. There used to be a view that canine tug of war could exacerbate aggressive behaviour but that view has changed. Managed correctly it can actually drive and reward positive behavioural patterns.

First things first, invest in a tug toy fit for purpose. A quality rope toy always performs well, and priced between $10-$20 it represents a great pet accessory. It should be long enough and strong enough; long enough that the dog's teeth are well away from your hands, strong enough goes without saying.

And so like most games, there needs to be some rules. Fortunately not so many as cricket or rugby, but some rules nonetheless. We find the following work just fine:

The Boss You’re in charge. You control the tug toy, when it comes out, when it goes away.
The Low Down Try to get down and play on your dog’s level. This avoids unnecessary stress on their spine but in your dog’s eyes it levels the playing field. Literally.
The Drop At regular intervals get your dog to drop the toy and sit. This will reinforce the terms of engagement – your terms. Once he relinquishes the toy you can begin again. (Often easier said than done, so have some treats to hand.)
The No-No If your dog’s teeth creep down the toy, nip this behaviour right in the bud. A firm assertive “No”, and withdrawal of the toy for a short period should get the message across.
Game Over It's not really about winning but taking part. We let Rio triumph every so often to stop him sulking but not so often that it further inflates his big ego. Once the rough and tumble is done, put the toy away and have a canine cuddle. Don't forget to check your dog’s water bowl is charged, he’ll no doubt be thirsty after his exertions.

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DISCLAIMER: the views given above are purely those expressed by Animal Outfitters. We are neither vets nor animal behaviourists, so these views are based purely on our own experiences and research.

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