Tug games can look a little scary. Bared teeth, and deep, guttural snarls can make even a Pomeranian look and sound like a monster.
In the past, some dog trainers and books advised against tug games, claiming that they might increase the chances of your dog becoming aggressive or dominant.
In more recent years, animal behavior researchers have found this claim to be a myth. There’s no evidence that dogs who engage in tug-o-war or use tug toys will become aggressive.
Bared teeth and loud growls are normal signs that your dog is enjoying himself during a highly physical play session. Dogs growl and snap when they play with one another, and they make a lot of noise when they play with tug toys.
Yet, a normal, mentally healthy dog always knows the difference between playing and fighting.
In Positive Perspectives 2: Know Your Dog, Train Your Dog, Pat Miller notes that while tug-o-war “can cause trouble if it’s not well-directed,” but can be used to teach your dog valuable skills when done right.
If your dog gets over-excited, and snatches at your hands or clothes, you can always stop the game. “Use a phrase such as ‘That’s all!’ as you stop the game, and you will soon have a cue you can use… whenever you want your dog to stop what he’s doing and calm down.”
Tug games are a full-body workout for your dog. It’s a great way for your dog to build muscle and lose excess weight.
For senior dogs and those with chronic conditions, you may want to consult your veterinarian to make sure tug is safe for your dog. The activity may be too strenuous for dogs who are recovering from surgery or have limited mobility.
Tug games have been shown to make your dog more confident. It may take a while for a shy dog to engage, but they’ll really come out of their shell, as they become comfortable grabbing and tugging away.
Letting your dog win is always a good idea. There’s no need to win every game to put your dog in their place. It’s much more important to make the game fun and enjoyable for your dog.
A good game of tug leaves your dog physically and mentally satisfied and exhausted. The more you play, the less a chance your dog will get bored and under-stimulated. Bored dogs may find ways to entertain themselves by chewing, destroying items and chasing other pets.
While tug games won’t solve all behavior problems, it’s a great way to encourage healthy play and discourage bored, destructive behaviors.
For even more fun, get your high energy dog a TetherTug. It’s a great way to keep up with your dog and provide yet another way for your dog to enjoy the benefits of playing tug.
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