Dogs start pulling almost from the time they are born. Their first instinct is to latch on to their mothers and pull. Voila – they get nourishing milk!
As puppies grow this behavior escalates to pulling on their littermates’ tails, blankets and anything else they can get their mouths around. It’s the thrill of competition and the joy of chewing.
There are pros and cons of playing tug-of-war, however. Some trainers believe it can bring out a dog’s worst instincts as he pits himself against his owner. A dog who goes head to head with people may start thinking that their relationship is always a level playing field and that’s not an attitude to promote.
On the other hand, playing tug-of-war can be a healthy outlet. It gives dogs a chance to get physical and stretch their bodies. They can mouth all they want, slobber if they want and pull as hard as they like.
Something all trainers agree on is to stop playing when the dog begins to growl. Growling has a way of turning into snarling and snarling can lead to biting. Instead, they advise owners to put down the tug toy and get the pet a treat. Have him sit first, then hand over the treat. This behavior reinforces that you, the owner, are the one he has to listen to and that proper behavior and discipline are expected.