Pup U
October 17, 2023

Playful Pup 101: Tug-of-War Basics

Learn the basics of how to make playing tug with your dog fun for both of you!

Dog playing tug of war in a field

This is the first lesson in our Pup U Playful Pup series. It will teach you the basics of how to play tug with your dog. 

How To Make Tug Fun and Challenging for Your Dog

If the toy goes too fast, your dog might give up or get frustrated. If the toy is too easy to catch, it might not be fun for them. We want to provide just the right amount of challenge. As your dog gets more experience, you might move the toy away at the last moment so that he misses it and then let him catch it on the next try. 

Playing is about interaction together. If you constantly pull away and “win” a toy, that’s likely, not fun for most dogs. On the other hand, if he is always pulling the toy away from you, he might find it’s too easy of a game. Watch your dog to see what he likes best. Many dogs enjoy a balance - getting pulled along sometimes and sometimes pulling you for a few feet - use your best acting and pretend like he’s soooo strong as he pulls you away.

Tug Tips

Move the toy away from your dog, not towards him. This gives your dog the opportunity to chase and more closely mimics prey running away. A hesitant dog is more likely to participate when the toy moves away. An eager dog will usually have better aim if the toy is moving away than if the toy is moving toward him.

Pull with steady pressure in an arc or line as you tug with your dog. Avoid yanking your dog back and forth. If we don’t pull hard enough, some dogs will let go and grab a toy again, which can impact their aim. To get steady tugging, be sure you’re pulling hard enough so your dog keeps his grip on the toy.

Avoid leaps high in the air, especially for growing puppies.

Ready for the next step? Check out Play 201: Learning to Let Go or get personalized one-on-one help today!