Tug of war is a fun game to add to your dog’s play routine. It provides great physical and mental exercise for your dog and makes the bond between you two even stronger.
It can also help you in training your dog basic commands when playing a short game of tug of war comes as a reward.
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Why Do Dogs Like Tug Of War?
Dogs love playing tug of war so much because it allows them to display their predatory nature.
Although dogs are domesticated, they still have the same instincts as they did in the wild. Playing tug of war is an excellent and healthy way of directing those drives to a fun and playful activity.
How To Play Tug Of War With Your Dog?
Tug of war can be a great game to play with your dog as long as you and your dog learn how to play it properly.
There have been many debates on whether tug of war causes aggressive behavior in dogs, however, if played properly, it actually provides your dog with physical and mental exercise, all while being a great bonding activity.
Follow these ground rules before playing:
Rules Of Tug Of War
- Teach a release command – Before playing tug of war, you need to teach your dog how to drop objects so you can stop the game if needed. If things escalate in an unwanted direction, you need to rely on the fact that your dog will drop the toy whenever you say. Ask your dog to “drop it” randomly throughout the game so it can learn to release the tug toy immediately.
- You should always be in control of the game – Make sure that your dog understands that you are the one who initiates playing tug of war. Have your pooch sit before you start the game.
- Choose an appropriate toy – The toy needs to be made with durable and flexible material, usually rubber or natural rope. When you’re done playing, don’t leave the tug of war toy with your dog as it may chew it and destroy it. This also helps with teaching your dog that he can only play tug of war when the toy is out.
- Play in an open area – Tug of war requires a clear space free of distractions and fragile objects. Make sure both you and your dog have enough space to move around.
- Do not pull upwards – Pulling upwards can cause injury to your dog’s spine. Only pull side-to-side, and adjust your intensity according to the age and size of your dog.
If Your Dog Breaks The Rules
- If your dog’s teeth touch your hand – stop the playing immediately, yelp, and ask it to drop the toy. Then, take the toy and walk away for 30 seconds. If your dog seems calm, go over, do a few commands, and then continue playing. If it repeats the same thing three times, stop playing for the day. This should teach your dog to be careful with its teeth, otherwise, playtime is over.
- If your dog takes the toy before you tell it to – take a 30-second time out. Go back, ask your dog to sit, and then offer the toy again.
Benefits Of Playing Tug Of War With Your Dog
- Redirection of bad behavior – When your dog is still a puppy and his teeth start to grow, it just wants to bite something. You can redirect inappropriate use of teeth by carefully playing tug of war with it. By playing tug of war to redirect undesirable mouthing, you can both direct your dog’s teeth to an appropriate object, and tire them out. Making it less likely to develop negative destructive behavior due to boredom or stress.
Check out these options for the best tough toys for large breed dogs.
- Builds self-confidence – Tug of war can also help build self-confidence in dogs. Dogs lacking in confidence might be unwilling to play at first. To overcome this, you can spread a little bit of peanut butter or some other treat on the end of the tug and wait for your dog to start nibbling. Then, gently start pulling the toy, and after some time your dog will get braver and tug harder.
- Strengthens the bond – Most dogs love to tug, so when you do an activity together that your dog loves, your bond gets stronger every time. It also helps with building your relationship where you are the leader by reminding him that the tug toy belongs to you.
- Great physical and mental exercise – The physical activity will wear your dog out, and the rules will keep their brain engaged.
Should I Let My Dog Win At Tug Of War?
Some people think that letting your dog win might make you seem submissive. However, multiple studies show that allowing your dog to win sometimes won’t lead to that outcome.
Letting them win from time to time will keep them interested and make it more enjoyable for them and allows them to build some confidence.
However, make sure you keep score and win more times than your dog, as you still need to maintain the leader role.
Does Tug Of War Make Dogs Aggressive?
Tug of war on its own won’t turn a non-aggressive dog into an aggressive dog.
Growling during tug of war doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is being aggressive. Many times, during tug of war your dog will be excited, and a growl is a product of that excitement.
There is definitely a difference between a playful growl and an aggressive growl. A playful growl is usually throaty and high-pitched, whereas aggressive growls come from the chest and sound deeper.
If you notice that your dog is NOT playful growling and is actually becoming aggressive with the toy, stop immediately.
Best Tug Of War Toys For Dogs And German Shepherds
When choosing a tug of war toy you need to look for three main things: durability, safety, and length.
Make sure you avoid tug toys that are not made with quality material so it doesn’t get destroyed or damage your dog’s mouth or gums. The tug toy also needs to be long enough to keep your hand away from your dog’s teeth.
When you finally get the perfect toy, make sure you use it only for playing tug of war, and put it away after you’re done playing.
This will teach your dog that he can only play tug of war when the toy is out. It will also prevent it from destroying it as some of these toys are made only for playing and not for chewing.
The Mammoth Flossy Chews is one of the best tug of war toys for large and extra-large dogs.
One of the best things about this toy is that it’s made from premium cotton blend rope fibers that floss your dog’s teeth while they chew on it.
It comes in two different sizes, X-Large (36-inch) and Super X-Large (72-inch) so you can get one according to your dog size. The length of the rope allows you to switch things up mid-play so your dog doesn’t get bored easily.
Aside from being long and fun to play, the rope is also sturdy and tightly knotted, so you don’t need to worry if it will last.
- Incredibly strong
- Perfect for large dogs
- Longer size options with up to 5 knots
- The rope fibers floss your dogs’ teeth
- Might be too big for smaller dogs
And the verdict is…
The Mammoth Flossy Chew is the perfect tug of war toy for large energetic dogs as the materials are extra sturdy and durable. Another plus is that it’s made to floss your dog’s teeth while playing.
The West Paw Bumi is a great tug of war toy as it can stretch up to twice its length. The innovative “S” design is ideal for both tugging and fetching.
It is made with Zogoflex, an amazingly tough material that is designed to be recycled. Zogoflex is non-toxic, doesn’t contain any BPA or Phthalates, and creates almost zero waste during the manufacturing process.
Although tough and durable, the material is also easy on your dog’s mouth and gums. The bright colors make it easy to find wherever you want to play, whether that is snow, water, or grass.
- Extremely durable
- Made from recycled materials
- Safe for your dog’s teeth and gums
- Perfect for playing with another dog
- Bright colors
- Dual purpose for playing tug and fetch
- Made for playing and fetching only – Isn’t a chew toy
And the verdict is…
If you want a safe toy you can use to play fetch and tug of war with your dog then this is the one for you. The material it’s made of doesn’t allow for dirt stains to soak in it so it’s easy to keep clean.
The Natural Pet Company’s Tug-of-war Dog Rope Toy – Double Pack
This beautiful gift box comes with two rope toys, both perfect for tugging and chewing.
Both of the toys are made with high-quality materials, meaning that the fibers are safe to chew and contain zero chemicals or plastic. They are also resilient and long-lasting and can hold up even to the sharpest teeth.
The first one is a rope with 4 knots your dog can chew on. The knots are strongly tied and can be chewed on for a very long time as the rope is durable and the fiber is safe for your dog.
The second one is a rope with a handle for your hand at one end, and a rope ball at the other. This is a much better option than those tug toys with a tennis ball at the end. The rope ball lasts much longer, is gentler on your dog’s teeth, and is great for teething too.
- Get two rope toys for a reasonable price
- Does not contain any plastic or chemicals
- The fiber is safe for your dog to chew on
- Highly durable
- Comes in a beautiful gift box
- Not suitable for power chewers
- Colors are not as bright as some other options
And the verdict is…
A great product if you are looking for an interactive way to bond with your dog. The two different ropes allow you to mix things up and keep your dog excited and entertained.
The RedLine K9 Tug Toy is an incredibly durable tug toy made to last. It’s made with high-quality bite suit material and sewn with heavy commercial thread.
It has two handles on either side to help you get a better grip if your dog is extra strong.
Dogs, and especially German Shepherds, seem to love this tug, as it’s easy for them to bite into while playing tug of war.
Although made with durable material, it is not made to be a chew toy, so make sure you use it only for playing and do not leave it alone with your dog.
My dog loves these tugs! I would use them as her reward when training in Schutzhund.
- Made with very durable material
- Perfect for your dog to bite into
- Two handles for extra grip security
- You get two tugs
- Great for a training reward
- Your dog might chew through the tug handle
And the verdict is…
If you are looking for a tug toy that you can use both for playing and for training, this is a must-have. Dogs seem to love tugging with it and it will likely become their favorite toy in no time.
Otterly Pets’ Pet Rope Toys – 5-pack Set
A 5-pack set that will certainly keep your dog excited and engaged. The variety of different shapes, sizes, knots and balls ensure that your dog will be entertained for a long time.
The set includes:
- 22.5 Inch rope with 4 knots
- 6 Inch ring
- Figure-8 ball with a chewable rubber ball at one end
- 20 inch rope with a 4.25 Inch rope ball at the end
- Monkey fist rope ball with 3.5 Inch diameter
All five ropes are built with great quality material so they are quite durable and chew resistant. They are also 100% washable and do not shrink when washed.
The cotton fibers are non-toxic and help clean your dog’s teeth and massage their gums. Great for preventing gum disease and the build-up of plaque.
Even though they are tough, they are not chew toys, so make sure you don’t leave them with your dog after you have finished playing.
- 100% washable
- Superior durability
- The different shapes and sizes keep your dog amused
- Lifetime warranty
- Cleans your dog’s teeth
- 5 pack set
- Not chew toys
And the verdict is…
A perfect set of versatile toys you can use for many different games with your dog.
Tug of war is a great game to play with energetic dogs like German Shepherds. Choose one of the above best tug of war toys for dogs and you and your pooch will have endless hours of fun ahead of you.
Any other good tug toys I missed? Let me know in the comments!