I’m not saying you can’t play tug-of-war with your dog, because it’s a great game that you’ll both get a lot of fun out of. What you mustn’t do is let your dog win!
Well, in a family situation, the dog sees himself as part of a pack – the pack instinct is still very strong in the most domesticated of dogs – and whatever their size. The higher up the dog perceives his rank in that pack to be, the more trouble you can expect from him.
One way in which dogs in their wild state get to know their place in their pack is by play-fighting. The winner is the rough and tumble is the top dog and he will continue to display dominant features until he is knocked off his perch by a stronger or more dominant dog.
In the family situation, you should rank higher than your dog at all times. If your dog perceives that he holds a higher rank than you, then he will behave in a way to ensure he keeps it.
Playing tug-of-war with your dog might seem an innocent and fun game to you, but to your dog, he sees it as a power struggle to be won. If he wins the game, he gets the spoils of being alpha male (or alpha female in the case of a bitch). I’ll post more on this subject over the next few posts.