Why should you play tug with your dog?

Why should you play tug with your dog? It’s very beneficial!

Published by: Mikołaj Synowiec


Many people don’t play tug of war with their dogs. You might be even one of them. Granted, there are legitimate reasons why you shouldn’t (like health repercussions), but at the same time, there are many misconceptions and false statements about this fantastic game. For example: “Playing tug will cause or increase aggressive behavior.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of the time, it’s the exact opposite of what happens.

Today I would like to present a couple of reasons why should you play tug with your dog! Playing tug is beneficial for you and your dog. Hopefully, this will convince you to give it a go!

Problem behavior solver

Tug of war can be a cure (or a big help) in solving many everyday behavioral problems. I say it with confidence because I experienced it firsthand. I helped people with many cases of aggression, chasing cars, barking at things, etc. A lot of “problem behaviors” are a result of a dog’s unmet needs. Tug gives dogs a way to fulfill their needs safely for them and convenient for us. Even if it doesn’t solve the problem, ultimately, it often gives us more of the desired behavior later when we try to attack the problem directly (for instance: playing tug before starting to work on switching attention for other dogs to us can make a massive difference).

Physical and mental health

The hardest part of having a dog is, for me, the fact that we will have to “say goodbye” to them someday. I feel obliged as a good friend of my dogs to make sure that they will have the longest life of the highest quality. Maintaining a dog’s high fitness level is a way to achieve it. The game of tug is a great exercise. It’s hard to believe that one activity can have such a wide range of benefits. It’s a whole-body exercise that can increase strength, coordination, and muscular endurance.


Why should you play tug with your dog?

Confidence booster

What I love about the tug is that it can make those “shy” dogs shine. From a trainer’s perspective, it’s really stunning to watch how, over a few weeks, initially fearful dog “grows” into a confident beast that is up for a challenge. There are two main reasons why this happens.

First of all, I’m a big believer in the correlation between physical capability and confidence. The more physically capable we are, the more confident we can be. This inner sense of “I can handle this.”

Secondly, the nature of tug progression that is required for seeing improvement is as well an excellent foundation for increasing a dog’s confidence. You need to learn many skills that influence your everyday life. Things like” environment management and how to gradually increase its difficulty, reading your dog’s body language and understanding what they are good and bad at, and many more.


If you consider yourself a part of the “dog world,” then you probably have heard people talk about the relationship with a dog many times. What is it? To me, it’s based on understanding each other and trusting that the other side will help me out when I’m in need. We often don’t understand what dogs try to tell us. We miss those subtle cues (and we get mad when those cues become not so subtle). Successful tug requires you to learn to understand what your dog is saying. How do they look like when they are enjoying something? What do they do when they don’t? When you ask for too much? When is something too overwhelming?

Understanding each other is the first step for building a conversation with your dog. Then you can show them that they can rely on us, and we will be there to support them.

It’s a blast!

I can’t forget about this one. Tug of war is a ton of fun. Dogs or humans, we all need to blow off some steam from time to time, relax and have some fun. Especially in these difficult times. Isn’t having fun with your dog on a weekly basis enough of a reason to try?

Sign up for a Iron Jaw course and let Mikołaj teach you how to tugging with your dog: https://tromplo.com/course/iron-jaws-22/


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