Dog games are fun and there is big misinformation with regard to tug-o-war.
Does playing tug-o-war make dogs aggressive. The answer is simply, NO. In fact, this is one of the two dog games I have all my clients teach in combination to all puppies within their first week of coming home. Tug and Fetch taught together teach three very specific cues: Ready, Get It or Fetch and Thank You (thank you is my version of Drop It). When your pup learns at a very young age to give something back to you it will reduce or eliminate any chance of a pup growing into a resource guarder or becoming aggressive; which is the opposite of why people think they can’t play tug-o-war.
Puppies put everything in their mouths because this is how they learn about and explore their world. We can’t and shouldn’t squelch this behavior but allow it while observing how they learn about their world. When they put something in their mouths, be it one of their toys or something inappropriate, I watch to see if I need to intervene and teach, redirect to another toy or enjoy the show. Since I also train Service Dogs, they may need to pick things up for their guardian which means that anything a puppy puts in her mouth must be treated as gold and my body language and energy will make or break whether the pup brings it to me, tries to make a game of chase or tug-o-war. The teaching begins with the understanding and combined effort at reading each others body language and energy and responding appropriately.
Playing tug-o-war is one of the best dog games you can play with your dog and is so much fun for both of you. So have at it. When you’re ready to stop playing, simply stop tugging while continuing to hold the toy, saying Thank You in a very quiet and soft tone of voice. The hard part is stopping tugging, don’t let go, just stop tugging. Your pup will continue to tug but you’ll stop everything; your body language, your energy, your pulling, your enthusiasm, laughter, grrrrrrring, everything stops. Your pup will sense your complete energy shift and will automatically match your shut down energy and will let go of the toy because of the shift in your tone of voice and energy. When she does, you’ll lavishly praise and/or offer a treat and begin again with the same sequence; Ready, Get It, Thank You. Repeat about five times and quit. Short periods of play/training at this age is all you need. The game of tug-o-war is interspersed with fetch in that sometimes you’ll just ask for the release and sometimes you’ll play tug before you ask for the release.
Teaching tug-o-war also helps teach what’s appropriate and what’s not (see previous blog about playful biting and prey drive Mar 6)
How bout that? You’re teaching three essential cues while playing fetch and tug with no aggression and your pup is only 8 wks old.