Dog on the Couch

2017-02-02 06:01

Hi Susan,

My wife and I have a German Shepherd puppy. I bought him a rope tug toy. When my wife came home and saw me playing tug with him she went ballistic.

She says I will turn him into a vicious dog and that trainers advise not to play such games with dogs. Is this true?


Thanks for the interesting question. Yes, some trainers advise against playing tug with a dog.

But it should be understood that dogs also have their own social rules and strict play protocols when they play tug or other games together.

Any misconduct such as an un-inhibited bite, getting too rough, failing to swap roles and to share when appropriate will normally result in the other dog stopping play or giving a retaliatory warning.

From interaction with their litter mates and others, they learn the rules of play and how to control their mouths.

They also learn how to “self-handicap” themselves in play, allowing a weaker playmate to have a chance playing the winning role.

With this in mind, and applying the proper rules, playing tug with your dog is a very good way to teach him how to give, drop, share and control his mouth.

Any sign of loss of control, such as teeth touching your skin, should bring an instant halt to the game. In this way the dog learns to control bite-inhibition if he wishes the game to con- tinue.

It is also a wonderful way to release stress and boredom, and of course to bond with the dog. Like soccer or any other game, rules need to apply in order for the game to be fair and safe for all.

This is one way in which children learn to avoid anti-social behaviour and become law-abiding adults. Through fair play the rules of fairness are instilled. - Susan Henderson© (accredited animal behaviourist) -


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