Why Do Dogs Like Tug-Of-War
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Why Do Dogs Like Tug-Of-War? The Definitive Truth

Whether you have a puppy or an older dog no one can deny the fact that sooner or later your pup will bring you his or her favorite toy to play a good game of tug of war but why?

So why do dogs enjoy playing tug of war in the first place? What entices even the smallest pup to play this game? In This article, we cover the definitive reason why do dogs like tug-of-war!

Why Do Dogs Like Tug-Of-War The Simple Answer

Dogs Like Tug-of-war because genetically there ancestral wolves passed down some prey driven behaviors such as biting and tugging. From your dog’s point of view, tug-of-war is essentially you and your dog vs the “prey” or toy.

Deep Dive Into Why Do Dogs Love Tug-Of War Soo Much? 

Why Do Dogs Like Tug-Of-War

If you have a dog, you likely have seen your pup thrive with playing tug-of-war but why?

Below we dive deep into the most common reasons dogs love playing tug of war!


Genetically dogs originated from wolves that means that many behaviors from our dogs come from their ancestors!

When wolves would find a “prey” they collaborate to take down their prey.

Once the prey is taken down the wolves would then tear up, pull, and tug the carcass together.

With that in mind seeing our dogs play tug isn’t too different when wolves are tearing up a carcass. 

The concept is the same with your dog. Essentially it’s you and your dog vs the “prey” or tugs toy!

Prey Drive

The next reason why do dogs like tug-of-war is because of a dogs “prey drive” 

Essentially a dog’s prey drive is a dog’s desire to “chase, catch, and kill” prey!

Dogs have various levels of prey drive depending on a variety of different factors such as your dog’s upbringing and genetics!

Some dogs such as Shepherds who were bred to herd have higher prey drives than say a pomeranian.

It’s important to understand that every dog is an individual and may have more or less prey drive depending on how that specific pup was raised.

For instance, imagine 2 shepherds. Growing up into adulthood one of the shepherds would get punished for any desire to chase and tug. This shepherd will likely have a lower prey drive because of his negative experiences growing up.

Now imagine the second shepherd growing up with games such as fetch, and tug. This shepherd will likely have higher levels of prey drive because he has been rewarded and had positive experiences playing fetch or tug growing up.

In a nutshell, all dogs have a prey drive and it’s a natural aspect for all dogs.

If you’re wondering if prey drive is good or bad read on as we’ll cover how you can benefit from your dog’s prey drive!

Fun Game 

The last reason why do dogs like tug-of-war is that it’s plain FUN!

All animals have the desire to play, it is an instinct for dogs.

Tug of war is essentially a give and take game between you and your dog, where you both collaborate and just play!

Play is a great way to build the relationship between you and your dog so that your dog views you as a source of fun.

So when you notice that your pup brings his favorite tug toy, your dog is communicating to you that he wants to play and have fun!

Benefits Of Playing Tug-Of-War With Your Dog

Why Do Dogs Like Tug-Of-War

Now that we understand why do dogs like tug-of-war below we’ll go over the main benefits of playing tug-of-war with your dog.

Teaches Dog To listen When Excited

One of the biggest benefits of playing tug-of-war with your pup is that you can begin teaching your pup how to listen to you in an “excited state of mind” 

As Awoke K9 trainers, we use play to begin teaching our pups how to focus and take our direction when your dog is excited.

This is one of the biggest benefits because if your dog gets excited, or stimulated due to the environment other dogs, people, etc.

you can easily get your pup to focus on you even if your dog is excited because you have spent time playing tug-of-war!

Builds A Stronger Bond

The next benefit of play is that builds a stronger bond between you and your pup!

Playing tug-of-war is a great way to teach your pup that YOU are fun exciting and rewarding.

For dogs playing tug inst as fun by yourself. This means that although your dog may toss the toy around when no one is playing with your pup, it never compares to having you on the other end of the tug playing together!

Essntially is ties into the ordinal reason why do dogs like tug-of-war


Another benefit of playing tug-of-war with your dog is exercise. 

Dogs like us need exercise and a good way to exercise your pup is… you guessed it playing tug-of-war.

Tug-of-war uses your dog’s neck and jaw muscle to pull, playing tug is a great way to burn off some of your dog’s excess energy!

Outlet For Prey Driven Behavior

As we already know dogs have varying levels of prey drive, as a rule of this we want to provide our dogs with an outlet for behaviors your dog may naturally want to do.

This means if you have a dog with high levels of prey drive, that wants to chase anything that moves be sure to provide your pup with an appropriate outlet like a tug of war

Providing your pup with an appropriate outlet like tug-of-war will ensure that your dog gets his “fix” and will greatly minimize prey driven behaviors in other circumstances

Remember the original reasons why why do dogs like tug-of-war? Prey Drive!

Confidence Building

One of the most important benefits of playing tug-of-war is confidence building!

Playing tug of war with your pup is a great way to build confidence!

It’s not uncommon to see dogs that are a bit on the fearful and insecure side to break out their shells during play! 

At Awoken K9 we have successfully been able to help insecure and fearful dogs break out their shells by playing tug of war!

The idea is pretty simple really, it’s about using the game of tug of war to create a positive and rewarding experience then gradually bringing that positive game around what normally would ma your pup uncomfortable!

Debunking Tug-Of-War Myths!

Now that we know why do dogs like tug-of-war? Lets uncover some myths!

In the past, there have been and likely still are many myths surrounding playing tug of war with your pup! today we debunk the truth, the facts, and the fiction!

In the past, the belief was that you shouldn’t play tug-of-war with your pup because tug-of-war will make your dog aggressive! 

We now know that is not the case as dogs display that they want to play, even if you hear your pup vocalize during play it’s just your pup communicating to you that he’ “excited”

Another myth once the theory that tug of war caused aggression was proven wrong is that “you need to always win to show dominance” 

As we now know that couldn’t be further from the truth!

 We now understand that always winning when playing tug of war with your pup does not show your dog “dominance” it makes your pup want to play less and less with you!

Why do you ask?

Well think about it like this, if you always lost at a game would you want to continue playing? Probably not.. the same is true for dogs, it’s about balance, a give and take!

So let your up win a couple of rounds and you’ll notice your pup will want to play more because your dog is having soo much fun winning and playing together that he won’t want the game to end!

Rules When Playing Tug-Of-War

Why Do Dogs Like Tug-Of-War

Playing tug-of-war with your pup can be one of the most fun activities you do with your pup but with everything, there are rules we have to teach your pup around playing tug-of-war.

As we now know why do dogs like tug-of-war we have implement the right rules of play!

Why implement rules?

Well for a variety of reasons, for dogs who are extremely motivated by playing tug-of-war we want to ensure that we don’t get accidentally bitten during the play, we also want to teach our pups to listen to us when we want to end the game.

Below are the basic rules to teach when playing tug-of-war with your dog.

Drop The Toy When Asked: One of the most important rules to teach your pup around tug of war is to let go when you say so. Teaching your pup a “drop or out” command will defiantly teach your pup this. This rule ensures that you always have control of the game no matter how exciting the game gets for your pup!

You End The Game: Tug of war is fun but there is going to come a time where you must end the game whether your dog may want to or not. I recommend that once your done playing tug of war tell your dog a word like “done” or “that’s it” and then giving your pup a treat.

Giving words to your dog that signify the end of something will ensure that in the future your pup will have a clear understanding of your expectations. 

You Choose Where “Play” Occurs: This rule is important because dogs that are very play motivated will want to play everywhere and anywhere.

Do you want your pup to get overly excited in your living room the kitchen, or bedroom? If not then setting these boundaries early on will make a drastic difference. Simply ensure that you don’t play in areas where you want your pup to be calm!

In contrast, only play in areas you want your pup to behave excited, like a field or park.  

Bite The Toy Not Me:  This is one that is critically important if your pup ever puts teeth on you the game ends immediately. We do this to teach your pup that the toy is what he/she should bite on. 

With this in mind be sure that when you are playing tug with your pup you hold the tug perfectly still so that your dog learns to target the appro[riate object. 

If your flailing the toy all over your dog may not know where to aim and accidentally bite you without meaning to, to avoid this be sure to present the tug toy still! 

You Say When It’s “Ok” To Bite The Toy:  With extremely motivated dogs this rule is a must, you want to ensure that you provide your pup with a “release word” that communicates to your dog that he/she can go on and bite the tug toy.

Doing this will teach your pup impulse control but also ensure that you don’t just have a dog always running to bite the toy, instead, you’ll have a dog that waits for you to say “ok” to bite the toy

Using Tug-Of-War For Training

Tug-of-war is great because it can be an incredible reward to use for your pup instead of food!

Come when Called: you can use tug of war to work on coming when called! Simply hide the tug toy in your pocket, ask your pup to “come”, when your dog successfully comes to you take out the toy and play!

Your dog will quickly learn that coming to you means fun and rewarding experiences

Impulse control:  If you have a pup that is extremely motivated to play, you can use tug-of-war to teach your dog to sit and stay while there is a toy present. Using the toy your dog wants to your advantage and as the ultimate distraction!

Obedience: You can also begin to use tug-of-war as a reward for your dog’s obedience. This is a great way to teach your pup to listen to you when excited. Simply give your dog a command and when your pup performs the behavior give a release word and play tug-of-war as a reward!

Tug-Of-War Toys Awoken K9 Recommends

Dog Training Bite Pillow Jute Bite ToyGreat material for puppies comes with handles to hold on to while playing

French Linen Dog Bite Tug ToyGreat tug for playing, comes with handles to hold on to while playing!

DuraFoam Ball Dog Toy: Takes more skill to use a ball on a string but dog love them!

Now there are a variety of different toys but there are the best as we now know why do dogs like tug-of-war, these are toys pups adore.


In this article you now now know why do dogs like tug-of-war.

Ultimatly Tug of war is a great game to play with your pup for a variety of reasons we went over! So if your pup wants to play tug of war remember to add rules and use play to build confidence and training!

To awaken your dog’s true potential contact us here or Give us a call!

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