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Playing tug-of-war with their dog is something more and more people are seeing the benefits of.
At Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear, we get to see every day how playing tug boosts bond, builds confidence, helps teach essential skills and commands, acts as a rewarding interactive training tool AND is really good fun.
But lots of dog owners are still nervous or reluctant to play tug with their dog.
That’s because myths about playing tug still loom large in some circles - so we’re here to tackle them head on…
This is probably the most common misconception about playing tug with your dog - that it causes aggression. Perhaps it’s because a dog bites down on a tug toy, and pulls with their mouth, which some may see as potentially ‘aggressive’.
However, tugging on things is an intrinsic behaviour for dogs of all breeds. Playing tug with a human can be a hugely rewarding experience that establishes trust and makes other aspects of training easier to achieve.
Establishing a few ground rules - such as it always being you that initiates a game and a solid ‘drop’ cue - helps make sure tug is always rewarding and fun.
Playing tug is perfectly safe for humans and dogs alike - as long as the best tug toys are used.
It’s important to protect a dog’s mouth and teeth - so you should never play tug with a stick or anything sharp or too hard. Instead, soft (but strong) toys designed especially for playing tug are the best option.
All our bungee toys also have a stretchy handle which avoids jarring your shoulder or your dog’s neck during play. And our Chaser tugs can help put some extra distance between dog and more inexperienced handlers.
If your dog tends to grab the handle of their tug toy, and you’re worried about fingers getting caught, we recommend following the advice here.
And we always suggest following the steps here for playing tug in a safe, enjoyable way.
Some dog owners get understandably concerned that playing tug - especially with a tug toy made with real fur - can encourage their dog to chase wildlife.
Of course, we always recommend dog owners take care when around wildlife and livestock with their dog. But in our experience - and in the opinion of experts - playing tug is actually a way to tackle wildlife chasing in dogs by giving them a satisfying outlet for this urge.
Get the complete lowdown on this here.
Another myth - which we hear a lot - is that playing tug with gun dogs causes a hard mouth.
The view that playing tug is bad for working gundogs - or that it ruins a soft mouth - is now widely considered to be outdated and inaccurate.
We believe every owner has to weigh this one up for themselves and do what is right for them and their dog.
But we also know that dogs are smart - especially gundogs. They are easily able to discriminate between playtime with a tug toy that they grab on to and tug their heart out - and ‘work’ time when they are required to carry prey gently.
What’s more, gundogs have a lot to gain from the benefits of playing tug.
We asked training experts across the field for their thoughts on this very topic - and you can see what they had to say here.