Dog pulling rope 000012673488 Medium copyThis is a question I get a lot. My answer is always a resounding ‘Yes’, but there must be rules for the game. One of my dogs loves a good game of tug. She is also very vocal. She will growl and bark, all in the spirit of the game. This just adds to her enjoyment. She has her special tug toy which she runs and gets if she thinks we are up for the game. If she gets a bit over aroused the game stops, so she learns to keep things in check. Tug is an excellent impulse control game. I don’t recommend playing tug with puppies for two reasons. Firstly, they haven’t got their adult teeth yet so we don’t want to hurt their mouth and secondly, they are still working on impulse control so they won’t understand the rules until they are a bit older. 

Don't believe me, check out this excerpt from Pat Miller's book "Play with Your Dog".
"The game of Tug has an undeserved bad rap in some training circles, while others, most notably the Agility world, have fully embraced it as an excellent activity to create focus and high arousal. Those two extremes aside, it's a great game just because it's fun, many dogs adore it, it's the perfect play activity for human family members who might otherwise want to get in appropriately physical with the dog and it's a terrific energy-burner.


One of the most commonly-heard myths about playing Tug is that it makes the dog "dominant." There's so much misinformation passed around about hierarchy in dogs - this is just another log on the fire. If you are concerned about what Tug might do to your relationship with your dog, just remember that the definition of leader is "the one who controls the good stuff," and orchestrate your Tug-play accordingly.

I'm solidly in the pro-Tug camp. I strongly recommend setting rules for canine and human players of the game to protect against the possibility of reinforcing unwanted behaviours, but with those in place, you and your dog can Tug to your hearts' content. The rules are general guidelines for making Tug a positive training/relationship experience. The calmer and better-behaved your dog is, the less necessary it is to follow them strictly. The rowdier and out of control your dog, the more closely you will want to adhere to them. By the way, don't be alarmed by your dog's growls during tug - it's all part of the game. As long as his other behaviours are appropriate, let him growl his heart out! "