Puppies can start playing tug-of-war after they stop teething. This is normally when they are around six months old and all of their adult teeth have finally come out. Attempting to play tug-of-war before this time can create problems with your dog’s teeth as there is a chance that they could grow crooked, which is a result from all of the tension exerted when your pooch is pulling the tug-of-war toy away from you.
However, you still have to be careful, because even though your pooch has all of her adult teeth, her mouth and jaw is still developing. So, excessive pulling can also create potential biting and jaw problems.
Normally, a puppy’s jaw alignment will only set at around the age of 10 months old, so extra caution is highly advised when playing this game with a puppy that is between 6 and 10 months of age.
Is It Bad to Play Tug-Of-War with Puppies?
If you exercise caution and play tug-of-war the right way, it can be very beneficial for your puppy.
This is a time when you are actually training your pooch to play the game the right way, and during the process, it can strengthen her jaw, boost her confidence and reinforce many important basic commands that will help during the training.
Of course, it also depends on what you use, so think very carefully when shopping for a tug-of-war toy. Never use any type of fabric strips such as old clothing, plastic bags and other materials that have not been designed for tug-of-war.
The problem with plastic bags is that they can easily break and it’s possible that your puppy could swallow some of those pieces. Which could potentially be very dangerous for her.
The problem with fabric strips and clothing items is that they can tear easily, which means that your puppy could also accidentally swallow some of it. There is also a big possibility that your pooch is teeth could get caught in the fabric, which could lead to accidental injuries when you suddenly yank it out of her mouth without realizing it.
Puppy Tug-Of-War Tips to Get Started
Once you’re ready to play tug-of-war with your pooch, always try to be in the right mindset. Don’t only see this as a game. Rather, think of it as a way to train your puppy, as this will go a long way in developing a close bond.
Remember, this is a good opportunity to reinforce commands such as “drop it”, “take it”, “sit”, “no”, and many others. It is also a great time to teach your pooch who the real leader is (you, of course).
More importantly, you have to be consistent in your approach so that there is no confusion in what your puppy is allowed and not allowed to do while playing the game.
By having this mindset, it means that you should always be in full control of the situation. You are the one who gets to decide when to play, how to play, and when to stop playing. This has to be trained, as your puppy won’t get it the first time round.
This will also ensure that you don’t let her dominate, which can be very important, especially when she becomes a full-grown adult. The last thing you want is to have an aggressive dog simply because you didn’t implement the right training when playing tug-of-war.
Being in full control of the situation also means that her mouth should never touch your hand. If it does, the game needs to stop at once, and she needs to know that this is not acceptable.
A very effective way to do this is to yelp when her mouth touches any part of your hand, then say no to her in a stern voice (never yelling), and stopping the game for at least 30 seconds before you initiate it again.
While playing, always keep a close eye on any signs of aggression. If your puppy is wagging her tail and growling, this is very normal and a healthy behavior. However, if you feel that the growling is making you uneasy in any way, stop straightaway, say no to her in a stern voice, and wait 30 seconds once again before continuing.
Remember, play tug-of-war with your puppy up to the point where she doesn’t get injured.
Potential Issues to Watch out for When Playing Tug-Of-War with Your Puppy
Be careful not to accidentally reinforce aggression. Contrary to what many people believe, tug-of-war doesn’t make a dog become aggressive. Rather, it is the incorrect manner in which you approach this game with your pooch that leads to potential aggression in the long run.
If you remember to follow the rules of not allowing your pooch to feel as if she is in control, always stopping when things get out of hand, and simply having full control of the situation at all times, there is no reason for any type of aggression to develop as a long-term behavior.
Before playing tug-of-war, always consult your vet to make sure that her teeth are healthy and that she does not have any type of mouth or jaw injury.
In the initial period of training your puppy to play tug-of-war correctly, don’t let children play this game with her as they won’t have the full understanding of what it means to be in control at all times. And when you finally do let a child play, you should always be there to supervise.
Puppies can play tug-of-war, and it can be quite a healthy game if done correctly. However, make sure that they first stop teething. Maintaining control is key, and being consistent in implementing the right techniques can go a long way in using this game as an effective tool to train your puppy, which in turn will create a close bond between the two of you.