Can anybody talk to me about tug of war with a puppy?  Our new girl is coming home next Saturday, and I'm so excited!!!  But, in the material my breeder gave me she's really adamant about NOT playing tug of war with your puppy.  With the dogs we had growing up, we played as long as the dog was good, and we didn't do up and down tug to be careful of his/her back.  So, I guess I'm just confused - any words of wisdom?  


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Thanks for all of the advice!  I'll make sure to ask the breeder the next time I see her.  For what it's worth, I don't think it's an issue with my specific dog/her parents, as the warning is included in the general information packet.  Regardless of what we decide to do, thanks for the reminder to teach a "give/leave it" command.  As a teacher, I put a lot of value in good instruction and lots of practice.  :)

The reason that was given by one of my vets, lo these many years ago, is that when people play tug-of-war with their dog they tend to hold on to one end of the toy and shake it or jerk it back and forth, or even drag the dog around by the thing. Vet said this puts stress on the pup's neck and back and can cause either immediate or chronic damage. If you don't want spinal problems, be careful with this game or avoid it.

But I don't see why "be careful" can't apply. Don't jerk the thing around. Don't twist it or pull it back and forth. Let the dog grab ahold of her end and pull backward as she pleases. Don't drag the dog toward you or back and forth with the toy. Just hang onto it. If the dog shakes it, let go and let her shake (it's a prey instinct): don't hold onto it while she's shaking it, and forhevvinsake don't shake it back in return.

I'm not one for doggy pop-psych, myself. My dogs have always played tug-of-war like this, with no sign of dominance neuroses.

Another sort of related game that's a hoot and that lets them have a "big fight" with the toy without you being in the middle of it is simply to take a sturdy, grabbable toy, attach it to a length of clothesline rope, and hang it from a sturdy hook in a porch rafter. Give it a shove so it'll swing back and forth. Once the dog figures this out, it's pretty hilarious...and it seems unlikely to cause any harm.

I could maybe see the breeder being concerned about neck/back issues, but if it's just because they think the dog will become dominant I think that's a lot of BS. My cardi absolutely loves tug and we let him "win" all the time, and it has never been an issue. Many top agility competitors/trainers use it as a reward for their dogs.

I've read both sides of this argument.  While there is definitely some behaviors I don't think you should do with dogs, a lot of things I feel that you should rely on your own experiences to decide of they work for you.  As Beth said, we needed (NEEDED) tug to help us get through puppyhood with Jerry.  He was very bitey, and there wasn't much else we could do to engage him without having to stop all the time and reprimand him for biting us.  

Corgis are small enough where you don't have to be really rough with the game.  We're always on the floor when we play tug.  I had a friend over who has a lab mix and she was WAY too rough with how she tugged with Jerry. I was actually freaked out by how hard she pulled.

Jerry is very playful and non dominating in his play.  We play fetch with him a lot and play sort of "rough-ish" with him on the floor, but he doesn't often revert to tug in adulthood.  If we're playing with a sock or something, he'll offer to tug sometimes.  

Just another opinion to add to the pile.  You'll know your dog better than anyone and you'll figure out what is best for her!  If we let vets, breeders, and opinions guide our every move with our dogs, we'd never do ANYTHING with them!  Good luck with your new little one!


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