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Plymouth, Michigan 48170

Tugging Towards Better Behavior: The Benefits of Playing Tug with Your Dog

By michael burkey

Playing tug with your dog is more than just a fun game; it’s an engaging and beneficial activity that can strengthen your bond, improve your dog’s behavior, and provide much-needed mental and physical stimulation. At Michigan Dog Training (MDT) in Plymouth, Michigan, under the expert guidance of CEO Michael Burkey, this activity is highly recommended for its numerous advantages. Let’s delve into the benefits and the proper way to play tug with your dog.

The Benefits of Playing Tug

  1. Strengthening the Bond: Playing tug is a cooperative game that requires interaction between you and your dog. This interaction helps build trust and strengthens the bond between you and your furry friend.
  2. Mental Stimulation: Tugging is not just a physical workout; it also provides mental stimulation. Your dog needs to focus on the game, follow rules, and respond to your cues, which keeps their mind sharp.
  3. Physical Exercise: Tugging is a great way to provide physical exercise, especially for high-energy dogs. It engages various muscle groups and can help burn off excess energy, leading to a calmer and more relaxed pet.
  4. Training Opportunities: Tug can be an excellent tool for reinforcing obedience commands such as “drop it” or “take it.” By integrating these commands into the game, you can make training sessions more enjoyable and effective. You can also use a fun game of tug as a reward for performing obedience commands such as walking on a loose leash, sit, down, place and come.
  5. Confidence Building: For shy or timid dogs, winning a game of tug can boost their confidence. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and can help improve their overall demeanor.

Proper Way to Play Tug with Your Dog

Playing tug might seem straightforward, but there are essential guidelines to ensure it’s done safely and constructively. Here’s recommended tips for playing tug with your dog:

  1. Choose the Right Toy: Use a durable tug toy that is specifically designed for dogs. Avoid toys that are too small or could easily break apart, posing a choking hazard. The tug should be long or have two handles on the side allowing you to have a grip far away from your dog’s mouth.
  2. Establish Rules: Before you start, set some basic rules. Your dog should know commands like “take it” and “drop it” or “give.” This ensures that the game remains controlled and doesn’t encourage aggressive behavior.
  3. Initiate the Game: Invite them to play by using the “take it” command. Then once the game has started, offer counter tugs to your dog’s tugging so that you’re not dragging your dog around. Instead, you are responding to your dog’s tugs.
  4. Mind Your Grip: Hold the toy firmly with your hands on the outer edges of the toy, but let your dog pull against you without jerking it out of their mouth. Ensure you do not pull too hard to avoid causing injury to your dog’s neck or teeth.
  5. Direction of Your Tugging: For your dog’s safety, tug from side to side, not up and down. A dog naturally shakes things from side to side. Going up and down is hard on their neck.
  6. Control the Excitement: If your dog gets too excited or starts to play too rough, take a break. Use the “drop it” or “give” command to pause the game and only resume when they have calmed down.
  7. Let Them Win: By letting them win and encouraging them to bring the toy back to you, will allow you to keep their intensity of the tug at the level you desire. If you always win, the dog will either stop playing with you or increase their intensity to win the toy.
  8. Reward and Praise: Positive reinforcement is key. Praise your dog when they follow commands correctly and play nicely. This reinforces good behavior and makes the game more enjoyable for them.
  9. End on a Good Note: Always end the game on a positive note before your dog gets too tired or overexcited. Use the “drop it” or “give” command, praise them, and put the toy away.

Playing tug with your dog can be a delightful and beneficial activity when done correctly. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that the game is safe, fun, and conducive to building a stronger bond with your pet. Embrace the tug, and watch your relationship with your dog flourish!

At Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan, Michael Burkey and his team are dedicated to helping dog owners create positive and rewarding experiences with their dogs. You can contact them at or text/phone at 734-892-1447.


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