Trainer explains why tug of war will strengthen your bond with your dog

Dog tugging on a rope toy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When we think of ways to exercise our pups, walking is usually the first thing that springs to mind. 

But, while walks are certainly important, they aren’t the only way to keep your dog fit and healthy while strengthening your relationship and bond too. While a vet’s guide to dog exercise will always be the best thing to consult, and you can have all of the best dog toys at home, one trainer has recommended a certain classic game to help you bond with your pup and get some exercise at the same time. 

Brad Howell, owner of Red Beard Dog Training, based in North Carolina, has shared on Instagram why tug of war is one of the best games you can play with your dog.  

“Tug is not utilized enough for pet dogs,” says Howell in the post caption, alongside a video in which he’s playing tug of war with various dogs. 

He explains that he gave each dog a tug of war session of around five minutes,

“Everyone’s got their own little style and wrinkle to it,” he says about each of the dogs in the video. Some dogs enjoy being more rowdy while playing tug of war, while some are less forthright, but nonetheless enjoy getting involved. One of the dogs preferred the rope to be thrown in more of a ball-like form, as if playing fetch. 

However your dog likes to play tug of war, “find a way to make it happen”, explains Howell. 

So, should you play tug of war with your puppy or your adult dog? The short and simple answer is yes, both younger and older dogs can benefit from tug of war, and you may find that your bond will improve. But, for the best play and exercise session possible, there are things to bear in mind. 

You may have heard that playing tug of war can prompt aggressive or dominant behavior, particularly when it comes to puppies. However, this has little basis in reality. Tug of war might be a game to avoid for the time being if your pup is already showing signs of aggression, but for most dogs it’s a great activity to enjoy. 

Not only will your dog get some extra exercise, but you’ll be able to strengthen the human-canine bond with plenty of eye contact and praise. And, tug of war is a great way to teach things like boundaries – and it allows your dog to channel excess energy in a positive way, rather than by destroying the furniture!

And, for when playtime comes to an end, here’s how to teach your dog to put toys away – but you might not want it to finish if you and your pup are having so much fun together.  

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.