How to Calm Your Dog by Playing Tug

Many dog owners look for ways to help their furry friends relax and release pent-up energy. Surprisingly, playing tug can be an effective way to calm your dog. This might seem counterintuitive, as tug of war is often an energetic and intense game. However, when played correctly, it can help your dog to release stress and become more tranquil. This article will guide you through the steps of using Tug of War as a calming tool for your dog.

Benefits of Tug of War

Tug of war is more than just a fun game; it’s a way for dogs to exert energy and satisfy their instincts. The act of tugging can be a stress reliever and a form of mental stimulation for dogs.

By engaging in a controlled game of tug, your dog can express these natural behaviors in a safe and structured way, which can lead to a more relaxed state afterward.

Choosing the Right Toy

The first step in playing tug to calm your dog is choosing the right toy. The tug toy should be durable, safe, and comfortable for both you and your dog to hold.

Avoid toys that are too small or could be easily torn apart. Rubber or rope toys specifically designed for tug of war are ideal choices.

Setting the Rules

Establishing rules is crucial for a calming tug-of-war session. Teach your dog commands like “take it” to start the game and “drop it” to release the toy.

This helps in maintaining control during the game and ensures your dog understands the boundaries.

Keeping the Game Controlled

Controlled play is key to using tug as a calming activity. Start the game calmly without too much excitement.

Let your dog pull and tug, but keep the energy level moderate. Avoid overly vigorous tugging or movements that might overstimulate your dog.

Balancing Excitement with Calm

While it’s important to let your dog enjoy the game, it’s equally important to balance the excitement with calm periods. Periodically pause the game and ask your dog to sit or lie down.

Once they have calmed down, you can resume the game. These breaks help your dog learn to switch between states of excitement and calmness.

Ending the Game on a Calm Note

How you end the game is crucial. Wind down the game gradually rather than stopping abruptly. Ask your dog to “drop” the toy and then engage in a calm activity, like petting or a gentle massage. This helps your dog transition to a relaxed state.

Monitoring Your Dog’s Response

Pay attention to how your dog responds to the game. If they seem to be getting too excited or agitated, it’s time to stop.

The goal is to use the game to release energy in a controlled manner, not to increase stress or aggression.

Using Tug as Part of a Routine

Incorporating tug of war into your daily routine can help your dog release energy regularly, leading to an overall calmer demeanor.

Consistent play sessions can make a significant difference in your dog’s energy levels and stress.

Tug and Training

Combine tug of war with training exercises. This not only reinforces commands but also provides mental stimulation, which can be just as tiring as physical exercise. A mentally stimulated dog is often a calmer dog.


Playing tug of war with your dog can be a surprising yet effective way to help them calm down. By choosing the right toy, setting rules, and keeping the game controlled, you can use this playful activity to release your dog’s pent-up energy and stress.