Why Do Dogs Love "Tug of War"?

My stepson’s Labradoodle is 4-yet she is like a puppy-always bringing a stuffed toy and pressing it int my hand-so she can initiate some tug of way. She never stops-sometimes I get tired and tell her to stop-she meekly comes back and wants to play again. Most dogs seem to love the game-why?

I suppose it has a instinctive similarity to a dog or wolf yanking away a chunk of a dead animal, or ripping it apart between them. Plus dogs like to bite things, and they like to interact with their humans; tug-of-war is both.

Because they suck at Monopoly.

What’s not to love?

Interaction with you.
Exercise.
The game of seeing “who wins”.

Sort of why kids like throwing a ball at an early age, or biting/chewing on anything they can get their hands on.

I think it’s gotta be instinctive. I agree they like the interaction and the bitework, of course, but I do think that in pre-living-with-humans packs they would tug on pieces of prey as Der Trihs suggests.

Think about it – it’s useful to be able to divide up the food, especially since dogs share food altruisitcally, and it helps make swallow-able chunks as well. But dogs don’t have cutting boards or vises – nothing to hold the chunk in place while they saw with their teeth and pull…except another dog on the other end. So it’s a useful behavior to share a tug with a pack mate, and most useful behaviors get modeled in play because play is how they are learned.

So I speculate that dogs thought tug-of-war was fun even before they merged their destinies with humans.

By the way, you have no idea how much they can love tug-of-war until you’ve played with a bully breed. Ancestral bulldog lines have been bred for about two thousand years for the purpose of biting and holding; it’s literally part of their nature. Tug-of-war is like a religious experience for my Simone; she stares into my eyes with an intensity that says “this is what I was born to do!”

True story – I developed tennis elbow shortly after we adopted her. My doc asked, “any new behaviors in your life you think might be contributing?”

When I first got dogs of my own, books I read said it’s a dominance thing that we should not play tug of war with our dogs (or let them growl over toys/food). None of my dogs ever showed an interest in it so I haven’t tested this theory. And this information is at least 15 years old.

My Doberman needs it to release energy, and uses it to interact with “her people.” I also believe it’s an innate drive they have which goes back to them killing prey so they could eat.

Tug with my moose is exhausting, so we tied a thick rope in a tree. She’ll go out there and tug and tug trying to pull it down – it’s good exercise for her, and keeps her teeth strong.

The tug-causing-dominance-issues thing is absolutely FALSE. Some dogs have a herding instinct, but they are fiercely protective of their human counterparts and would not hurt them. If you train your dog and treat it well, then tug is a game that just strengthens the bond between a dog and its owner.

Now, a dog should NEVER be allowed to growl over their toys or food EVER – this is negative behavior and it is dangerous. I solved this by free-feeding my dog (food is always available to her which has kept her at a perfect weight), and socializing her with other dogs when she was a puppy. She is more protective of me than anything – doesn’t like other dogs getting near me – but she’s fine with small dogs and kids.

LOL I can relate! My Dobe lives for her tug games. :slight_smile:

Ive resided with a GSD, Rottweiler, Bull Terrier and a Dogue de Bourdeax and they all loved a good tug -o- war, with me or each other… Quite a sight when they get into it…We never let it go on too long though and always made a point of my gf or I stepping in and putting a stop to the fun, or settling things down as approriate. That kind of thing can cause dogs to become possesive or aggressive if its done a lot IMO. Especially with such breeds its important to be firmly in control and carefully watch their goings on…As for why do they love it, its probably the same reason a bunch of young kids would soon starting doing the same thing if you gave them a rope. It fun, a social thing, stimulation, competition, a test.