Tug of war could be bad for dogs’ teeth if they are having some dental issues and for senior dogs due to weak roots. It is also bad for puppies as their teeth are still under the growing process. 

Is Tug of War Safe For a Puppy’s Teeth?

Puppy teeth could easily get injured or snap out, so it is essential to play at the correct level. You should not tug harder than your pup and never try to snatch away their toy. Please remember that a puppy’s pointed teeth might get hooked in items, so be careful when taking the toy out from their mouths.

Adult dogs will probably pull much harder than puppies, and while it is acceptable to meet their intensity, you must resist pulling more than they would to minimize injuries. [1]

Did you Know?

Applying excessive force on a dog’s teeth might cause bleeding in the gums.

When Not To Play Tug of War

  1. Do Not Play Tug With a Puppy
  2. Do Not Play Tug With a Senior Dog
  3. Do Not Play With Dogs Having Dental Problems
  4. Do Not Play Tug If They Are Showing Aggressive Behavior

1. Do Not Play Tug With a Puppy

It can harm the growing jaw and milk teeth of a young puppy. Puppyhood, on the other hand, is an excellent phase to train the ‘drop’ command. Puppy’s teeth are softer and can easily be pulled out with stronger force. [2]

2. Do Not Play Tug With a Senior Dog

Do not play with those who have not played in a long time. In a tug of war sport, senior dogs that have not constantly used their jaws and gripped tightly with objective are at higher risk of losing teeth. Tooth roots deteriorate with age, just like human teeth, so an overly enthusiastic dog may loosen his fangs. [3]

3. Do Not Play With Dogs Having Dental Problems

Certain dogs should not be allowed to play tug-of-war due to their dental issues. Pulling on their jaws and molars at this stage can result in malocclusions. Dentition is generally finished by the age of 8 to 9 months. Even adult canines could require an extraction process and root canals as a result of excessive pulling. You should avoid extremely intense tugging at all costs. [4]

4. Do Not Play Tug If They Are Showing Aggressive Behavior

Leave the game and move away when you suspect your pet is being violent. Aggression is characterized by looking intensely towards your face, pushing the lips away from the canines, lifting hair over their spine, tense and rigid neck or jaw muscles, grunting, and a raised tail. Ditch the item and stop the game right away if you observe something that gives you the impression the canine could bite. [5]

Did you Know?

Dogs start having dental problems by the age of three

Tug of War Technique

Hold the tugging toy just in one direction, do not go up and down. It might cause harm whenever your pet bends its neck backward to apply force.

Resist tugging the toy suddenly; instead, let the canine handle the tugging while you simply hold, adjusting the angle and strength of the pulling. Suddenly snatching a toy might cause a canine’s muscles to tear or damage its molars. [6]

What Should You Do If Your Dog’s Teeth Touch Your Hand?

When playing tug, keep your fingers away from a dog’s jaws. Hands are not allowed in a canine’s mouth, and keeping them near in a game might confuse the dog.

The pull toy is the main target in this game. If your canine’s teeth suddenly touch your fingers, quickly stop the sport for at least 30 seconds and scream out an “ouch” to inform your furry friend that he broke the rules. Your dog has to understand that teeth near your hands or fingers are not allowed.

If your pet is mouthing at you with his fangs, tug-of-war might be utilized to change this behavior. This form of positive reinforcement might assist your pet to understand that chewing on the tug toy is acceptable but not on someone’s hand.

Improved Behavior Training

If your canine attacks you twice or three times, even when it is unintentional, the game must end for safety concerns. Repeat the word ‘drop’ repeatedly during the play to confirm that your pet will always release the tug toy on listening to that command. It is a friendly reminder to your canine to be cautious with his or her teeth.

Due to the intensity of this game, their teeth may scratch you very often, but when your pet learns the instructions, it will always be attentive. [7]

Note: Starting early training for puppies is overall good for their behavior.


A tug-of-war game with your canine could be a really enjoyable experience. Games are behaviorally and physically entertaining for your pet, as well as an excellent way for everyone to get some action.

Owners should never pull aggressively on their pet’s teeth since this might result in damage. Since pups’ teeth, mouths, and jaws are actively going through a transformation, tug-of-war is not a game for them. Tugging excessively might result in a jaw or biting issues.