Mythbuster – Tug of War Leads to Aggression
We’ve probably all heard it said, or been warned by a dog trainer that dogs playing tug of war leads to aggression and should be avoided. Makes no difference if they are playing with you or with another dog, the act of tug and the associated victory of possession creates jealousy and possessiveness in the dog.
Not true, say studies in dog aggression. In a study by Rooney and Bradshaw. An Experimental Study on the Effects of Play upon the Dog-Human Relationship, they found “there was no effect on the human-dog relationship caused by playing this game.” Another study by O’Heare, in Aggressive Behavior In Dogs (2007) found: “The relationship between tug-of-war and dominance aggression appears to be a myth.”
The idea that it can lead to aggression may seem logical – there can be a lot of growling and snarling and the twisting and shaking of the head involved may be similar to the killing of prey. But with some basic ground rules, tug of war can be a fun and invigorating exercise for your pup.
Some things to be aware of if you choose to play tug with your dog:
- If your dog has a previous history of aggression, you need to be extra observant of their behavior and break off the game if they seem to be getting over excited.
- If your dog has any dental issues be careful of pulling too hard as it may damage their teeth or gums.
- It’s imperative that your dog knows the “drop it” or “leave it” command so that you can break off the game whenever is needed.
- To help keep control over the excitement and possibly aggressiveness, allow them to play tug only with permission.
- Make sure that if your dog accidentally injures you with their teeth that you make them aware – even signaling with a YELP and immediately stop the game so they learn that is unacceptable behavior.
Following these guidelines, apply some basic common sense and you should be able to enjoy a good friendly game of tug with your dog.
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