How to Play Tug-of-War with Dogs Without Building Aggression

Christine Colbert July 6, 2020 0 comments

Tug-of-war games are enjoyed by your doggo because they tap into their primal predatory senses.

It’s no secret that dogs commonly love to sink their teeth into a tightly knotted rope toy. From chasing it down, to swinging it around, chewing on it and pulling on it, there is no shortage of fun to be had if you’re a dog and you’ve got some rope. But, how to play tug-of-war with dogs in a safe way that doesn’t build aggression.

So, what’s the appeal? Why do dogs love this simple toy so much?

When your dog bites and shakes that rope toy, he or she is taking part in an instinctual predatory activity — without harming any animals. The actions are the same ones used to kill prey, or, according to the website K9 Of Mine, tearing off bits and pieces of a dead carcass. While this may sound morbid to you, it doesn’t to your dog. It’s just the kind of thing he or she would love to do. And while they’re giving that toy a good chew, they’re actually cleaning their teeth.

But the best part about the rope toy is the bond it creates between you and your dog. According to the American Kennel Club, a game of tug-of-war with a rope toy not only strengthens your bond, but it helps your pup build confidence and learn self-control, too.

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Plus, as we all know, dogs love to chew things. So if your pet has been getting into your socks or wrecking the furniture, try giving them a hemp rope toy to chew on instead. It might just be the thing to save your couch.

How to Make Your Own Natural Pet Toys Out of Hemp

The hemp plant provides a better alternative as a textile because of its all-natural quality. It can be substituted for bleached cotton, which can make it a healthier choice. This is particularly beneficial when making things like natural pet toys.

For instance, instead of making this fun and adorable dog toy out of bleached cotton rope, you can use natural hemp rope instead. That way, it’s safer for your dog, and it supports the sustainable hemp industry. Simply buy yourself some hemp rope instead of cotton or nylon, and you’re well on your way to treating your dog’s toy habit with the love and care that it deserves.

Ready to make your pup a hemp rope toy? Simply follow these steps provided by Instructables. There are numerous patterns to suit your dog’s personal play style. By using a hemp rope to make natural pet toys, you can rest assured that your pooch won’t be ingesting any harmful chemicals.

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And if you want to go the extra mile and make your own hemp rope, you can find instructions here.

natural pet toys and a golden retreiver playing with them

What if a Tug-of-War Game Turns Aggressive?

There are some instances where a tug-of-war game is not a good choice. If your dog has shown signs of heightened aggression in the past, there is a chance they might go a little overboard with this game. In this case, it doesn’t matter what you read regarding how to play tug-of-war with dogs. It would just increase the risk to yourself and your dog. There are other games to play.

Basically, if you’re worried that a game of tug-of-war will teach your dog to be aggressive or dominant, don’t. This study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (2003) [1]Rooney, Nicola J, and John W S Bradshaw. “Links between Play and Dominance and Attachment Dimensions of Dog-Human Relationships.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science : JAAWS, U.S. National … Continue readingfound that playing tug-of-war does not determine whether or not a dog is aggressive.

And according to this very thorough instructional guide about the science of dog behavior, there are some pervasive myths out there regarding dogs and dominance. Basically, it’s all about the relationship you have with your dog, and how you respond to their needs. A game of tug-of-war isn’t going to change that overnight.

natural pet toys could benefit this husky puppy as soon as his teeth are good

How to Play Tug-of-War with Dogs and Keep it Fun (and Safe)

Playing tug-of-war with your dog will not cause them to become aggressive, but there are some steps you can take to keep the game friendly and good-natured. You can ensure that things don’t get too out-of-control by safeguarding with a few dog training steps.

First and foremost, establish a good release command between you and your dog (if you haven’t already). Words like “drop it,” “leave it,” or “give,” are all good options to use. By asking your pup to give over the toy, you can help keep things safe between you and your dog. This type of command can also help you end the game.

Dog behavioral experts like those at the American Kennel Club advocate that you initiate the game, not your dog. And when things start to get a little too rough, end the game immediately. If your dog accidentally bites you, or shows signs of over-stimulation, that’s a good time to call it quits. The overall take-away here is that you control the game, not your dog.

Just remember that your pup might growl during this game. If their tail is wagging and their behavior seems friendly, that’s okay. A little growling is all in good fun. It’s also important to resist pulling very hard with your dog, to avoid damaging their teeth (especially if you have a puppy with baby teeth).

But above all, don’t hesitate to reward good behavior (like following commands) with treats. That way, you’ll help build your dog’s confidence and set the stage for friendly tug-of-war games in the future.