Should You Tug With Your Dog? Absolutely!

You may have heard some reasons not play tug:

  • It makes your dog aggressive
  • He will learn to bite you
  • Don’t let him win – you need to be the dominant one
  • You’ll teach him it is okay to growl at you

Firstly, all of the above is wrong. ‘Dominance’, ‘Pack Leader’, & all of that is just nonsense. So, Why should you play tug?

  • It strengthens your bond with your dog
  • Tug can be an awesome reward for your dog rather than cookies
  • Tug teaches impulse control
  • Tug gives you an awesome recall!
  • Tug is a great way to teach fetch
  • Tug builds confidence

Like any game, tug has rules. These rules turn a simple game of tug into one of the best training games you can play with your dog.

1- You Start the Game

Hold the tug in your hand and move it around a bit. If your dog tries to grab it, calmly and quietly block his attempt with your other hand. Avoid hiding the tug in your pocket or behind your back, and do not cue ‘leave it’ or any other behaviour. This is where our dog learns to THINK and offer polite behaviours.

Once your dog is calm and looking at you, wait to see if your dog will offer a sit. Ideally don’t cue him. If he is used to sitting for cookies, his dinner etc, he should be able to put two and two together and offer a sit. If he doesn’t offer a sit, you may have to tell him to sit the first few times.

The goal here is that your dog will offer a sit, rather than try to steal the toy – even if you are swinging it around.

When your dog sits, say ‘yes’ to let him know that sitting was what you wanted. Then say ‘get it’ or what ever word you want to use to give your dog permission to play.

IT IS OKAY for your dog to growl quite ferociously while tugging—that’s part of the game!

2- Dropping the Toy

Stop tugging, but hold on to the toy. Place your hands on the toy as close to your dog’s mouth as possible. Hold the toy very still. For strong dogs, it helps to anchor you arms against your leg so the toy is frozen against your body. For very strong dogs, hold his collar with a spare hand. This game becomes boring quickly and your dog will spit out the toy. Say ‘yes’ to let him know that spitting out the toy was what you wanted.

Go back to step 1 if you’d like to keep playing. If you are finished playing, give your dog a cookie and put the tug toy away.


  • Frequently let your dog win!
  • For dogs who LOVE tug, use it as a reward for coming when called!
  • Smile, praise your dog, and laugh! Have Fun!