Playing tug-of-war

Whether you’re stuck inside because it is cold outside, or stuck inside due to lock down from the coronavirus, here is a game that you can play with your dog to bond with him and to stay active: tug-of-war.

Who doesn’t love a good game of tug-of-war? Most dogs do, but if he’s not interested, or if he has a dental problem, you might want to try another game instead.

How to play:

Step 1 Choose one toy and only bring it out when it is time to play tug-of-war.

Step 2 Ensure that the toy is strong enough and preferably use a toy made for this game. Multicoloured plaited ropes in a size that suits your dog’s breed is ideal.

Step 3 Allow your dog to hold onto to the toy before you start the game.

The game is over when it becomes too rough! The last thing you want is your dog damaging his teeth or gums. Bleeding gums is a sure sign that the game has gone too far.

A quick note: “Tug-of-war causing aggression comes from the outdated, incorrect dominance-based theory of  ‘don’t let your dog win’. Tug-of-war does not cause aggression. Period,” explains Samantha Walpole, behaviourist.

The rules of the game:

Before participating in any games, both you and your dog need to understand that all games have rules that should be adhered to. Because pets don’t always understand the human rules, we have to teach them the rules.

Rule 1 Humans control games and therefore you should start and end the game on your terms. You should initiate the game when you are ready. Set the tone of the game and if it gets too rough, end the game.

Rule 2 Play with durable toys and not human limbs – teach your pet that your limbs are not prey items.

Rule 3 The toy belongs to the human. At the end of a game, put the toy away – offer your dog a high-value treat in exchange for the toy and when he drops it, say a word like “drop”. He will eventually respond appropriately to “drop.”

Always end the game on a positive note. This way your dog will look forward to your next play session. Remember that your dog will not always be in the mood to play, especially if he is tired. Respect that and don’t force him into a game when he doesn’t feel like it.