Rules for Playing Tug with Your Dog

Rules for Playing Tug with Your Dog

Playing tug with your dog can be an enjoyable and bonding activity. It's a game that dogs naturally love, but it's important to play it safely and responsibly. Establishing clear rules can ensure that this game is fun and beneficial for both you and your furry friend. Let's go through some essential rules for playing tug with your dog.

1. Choose the Right Toy

The first rule is to select an appropriate tug toy. The toy should be durable enough to withstand your dog's strength and long enough to keep your hands at a safe distance from their mouth. Avoid toys that are too small to prevent your dog from accidentally swallowing them. Soft, flexible, and strong materials like rubber or rope are ideal for tug toys.

2. Start and End on Command

It's crucial to teach your dog to start and stop playing on command. Use specific commands like “take it” to begin the game and “drop it” to signal that it's time to release the toy. This helps establish your control over the game and teaches your dog self-control.

3. Keep the Energy Level Appropriate

Monitor the energy level during the game. The game should be spirited but not overly aggressive. If the play gets too rough or if your dog becomes overly excited, it’s time to pause and calm down. Maintaining a moderate level of excitement helps prevent the game from escalating into aggressive behavior.

4. Let Your Dog Win Sometimes

Allowing your dog to win occasionally can boost their confidence and make the game more enjoyable for them. It’s not about showing dominance but about having fun and bonding with your dog. A balance between winning and losing keeps the game engaging for your dog.

5. Avoid Playing with Multiple Dogs

Tug of war should generally be a game between you and your dog. Playing with multiple dogs can lead to competition and aggression. If you have more than one dog, it's better to play tug one-on-one to avoid conflicts.

6. Use It as a Training Opportunity

Incorporate training into the game. Use tug as a reward for obeying a command. This turns the game into a positive reinforcement tool, which can be beneficial for overall obedience training.

7. Stop if Teeth Touch Your Hands

Safety is paramount. If your dog’s teeth accidentally touch your hand, stop the game immediately. This teaches your dog to be careful and to understand that the game ends if they are not gentle.

8. Regular Breaks and Calm Down Time

Take regular breaks during play to prevent your dog from getting overstimulated. After the game, have some calm down time. This could be a few minutes of petting or lying down quietly. This helps your dog understand that playtime has ended and it's time to relax.

9. Monitor Your Dog’s Body Language

Always be attentive to your dog’s body language. If they show any sign of discomfort or stress, it’s time to stop playing. Not all dogs may enjoy tug-of-war, and it’s important to respect their feelings.

10. Avoid Playing with Puppies

Be cautious with puppies. Their teeth and jaws are still developing, and vigorous tug games can cause harm. If you do play tug with a puppy, be extra gentle and use a soft toy.


Tug of War can be a fantastic way to interact with your dog, giving both of you a great workout and strengthening your bond. By following these rules, you can ensure the game is safe, fun, and beneficial.