Many medium and large-breed dogs, like German Shepherds, love a good game of tug of war, and it’s a great way to interact with your dog and keep them fresh and stimulated.
The nice thing about most tug toys is that they will also stimulate dogs who like to retrieve, and can sometimes be used to soothe chewers, too.
Plus, of course, the happy puppy dances when you pull the toy out and they know it’s time for fun! Tug toys can also be good toss toys for dogs who like to play-wrestle and thrash their toys around.
If you’re looking for the perfect toy to bring the puppy out in your dog and create some epic tug-of-war battles, then this is the article for you.
We’ll walk you through some tips and tricks, as well as bring some fantastic brands to your attention. You and Fido are sure to enjoy it!
What Makes a Great Tug Toy?
Tug toys are very simple at their core, just look out for these three key factors:
- Quality materials: Don’t buy ultra-cheap tug toys, as they can break, fray, or get chewed to pieces.
- Easy grips: You need to be able to hang on to the other end effectively, so make sure it’s shaped to give you a good grip. The side for your dog should also be pleasant to hold in its mouth.
- Size: You want the toy to be the appropriate size for your dog’s mouth.
Additionally, you want to pick a tug toy with enough space between you and your dog, so that you don’t risk getting your fingers bitten.
You should also be able to immediately release your hand from your side of the toy so that you can respond if there’s an emergency.
How Do You Play Tug With Dogs?
Tug is a very simple, but much-appreciated game to play with your pup. Technically, any toy can be a tug toy for dogs, but that doesn’t mean they should be!
Many toys are not the right shape for a great game of tug-of-war, and they may be fragile or prone to breaking, which will be dangerous.
Tug toys are specifically created to be yanked, tugged, and tossed without causing damage to your dog or the toy. Ideally, the tug toy should have a comfortable “human” handle for you to hang on to.
The other side should be shaped so your dog can easily grab it and hang on. You want a design that’s also gentle on their mouths, and won’t bruise or cut them.
You will find all sorts of innovative designs and shapes on the market.
This can be a great investment for intelligent breeds like the German Shepherd, as they need to keep their brains stimulated as well as their play drive.
Are There Dogs That Shouldn’t Play Tug?
While most dogs enjoy a good game of tug, even some small breeds, it’s not a game for every dog.
With smaller breed dogs, you need to keep the back-and-forth action relative to their size and neck strength to keep them safe. They need gentler play, but will still enjoy bonding with you through tug!
It is important, as a responsible dog owner, to realize that the urge to shake side-to-side in tug-of-war is linked to a dog’s prey drive.
As a working breed, originally bred for herding sheep, the German Shepherd is less prone to chase and attack smaller animals than hunting breeds like the Greyhound.
This means that most German Shepherds will love a game of tug and can play to release their energetic sides safely.
However, if you have small animals or cats in the household, or notice that your dog has an unusually strong prey drive, you might want to find a different game to enjoy together to avoid amping up these overactive instincts.
Likewise, an unusually aggressive dog may need a more soothing game to play with you, as they can get a little hyper in a solid game of tug!
Playing Tug Safely
Let’s also get the important safety disclaimer out of the way. Tug games are fantastic for bonding with your dog, but you do need to do your due diligence on the toy.
For safety’s sake, you need to pick a quality toy that won’t break, especially if your dog is a moderate or aggressive chewer.
Super cheap tug toys are everywhere and might be tempting, but you don’t want an expensive vet bill because the wrong part broke off. It’s worth investing in quality.
Tug Toy Types
All great tug toys for dogs have two features in common—a part for the dog to grab, one for you to grab, and a length in between.
Beyond that, there’s a wealth of fun and creative designs out there! Here are some common types:
This is undoubtedly the most popular type of tug toy for dogs. Typically, they have a knot on each end, one for each of you, and some other knots down the length for weight.
They’re generally lightweight, simple, and safe.
No matter any claims about indestructibility (see below), all rope toys feature fibers twined together and can be destroyed or have their strings pulled off.
This can quickly become a hazard for your dog, so always watch them if you use it as a chew option.
On the plus side, chewing on the fibers helps strengthen and clean teeth, too. They’re inexpensive and last pretty well for their simple design.
Strictly speaking, bumpers are a training toy for retrieval—but some can be pressed into service as great tug toys for dogs, too!
Their basic design is a heavy shape on one side, a string, and a handle for throwing. Beyond that, they can look like anything!
Because of this wide variety of materials and shapes, they’re great to keep active and inquisitive dogs interested and provide them with variety.
They’re typically durable and are often good for playing with around water too. Plus it’s a great way to combine fetch and tug together! Bumpers can be tough to grip, so they’re better for older dogs.
The secret is in the name here. Interlinked rings make for an easy grip for you and your dog. They’re a great tug toy for dogs who play inside or who have limited space.
As with bumper-style tug toys, you can use them for fetch, too, and if you have a dog who likes to throw toys around, they have a great weight and move well.
If you often play in water or live in a wet-weather climate, you can also avoid fabric in this design, making it cleaner and more hygienic.
However, size the rings carefully—it should be easy for your dog to grip, with a diameter inside that allows them to close their mouth.
You don’t want too big a ring either, as that risks trapping the entirety of the dog’s muzzle.
There are a ton of inventive tug toys that don’t fit our other three categories, but still provide hours of fun tug-of-war play.
The design could look like anything if there’s a side for both of you to hang onto, and a robust connection.
This is often to your benefit if you have a strong dog, as they tend to have a set handle for the human , making gripping it easier for you.
They’re also typically made with very robust materials, which is great for a combined chew-tug toy.
Just grab one that’s well-sized for your dog’s mouth and your hands, and you’ll be ready to play.
Just to revisit the idea of indestructibility, remember that no dog toy is ever indestructible, particularly around aggressive chewers. Always supervise your dog while they’re chewing!
Handheld Tug Toys vs Tethers
A basic tug toy for dogs couldn’t be simpler to use. You simply grab one side, let your pooch grab the other, and play your hearts out.
It’s a great way to bond with your dog, but once you’re tired, it will be game over, even if your dog can keep going. They’re cheap, come in a variety of styles, as we’ve seen, and allow for a wonderful game together.
However, if you have very hyper dogs, you can look for a tether-style tug toy for dogs (or adapt their favorite to work with a tether).
The toy is anchored to a flexible post on one side, and the other side hangs free for them to play with.
Tethered toys can be a great way for dogs to entertain themselves, but you lose out on the magic of bonding together.
It’s also worth giving careful consideration, as you won’t be right there to soothe tempers if they start to fray, or to help if the dog or tether gets caught on something.
So, they need a well-behaved dog who doesn’t get easily hyped up.
It’s time to find some great tug toys for your dog! Here are some of our favorites.
IN A HURRY? HERE ARE OUR TOP PICKS…
Bmag Dog Rope Toys
ChuckIt! Ultra Duo Tug Dog Toy
LECHONG Dog Rope Toys
A good tug toy is a great way to distract playful dogs from delicate items like shoes and furniture, as well as a fun way to play with your dog.
The ChuckIt has become an iconic tug toy for dogs, and for good reason. Designed as two attached tennis balls, it can also be used for fun play between two equally matched dogs.
Another rope-style design of tug toy, this rope is all-cotton, making it easy to wash and pretty safe to chew. Dogs should always be monitored if they are aggressive chewers.
Nice length and weight
Wide range of compatible toys
Easy to wash
Strings can separate, so supervision is needed
Not a great choice for compulsive chewers
Ships with a prominent dye smell
1. Best Overall: Bmag Dog Rope Toys
- Nice length and weight suitable for German Shepherds
- Great thickness to discourage swallowing and gulping
- Canny dogs and aggressive chewers will still manage to damage it
- Strings can separate, so supervision is needed
A sturdy and durable tug rope that your German Shepherd is sure to love! With a close-knit design, it’s a durable chew toy, too.
It ships in multi-color, with 5 knots over the 3-foot length, so it’s a great length for larger dogs.
A good tug toy is a great way to distract playful dogs from delicate items like shoes and furniture, as well as a fun way to play with your dog.
This company is proud of its “indestructible” chew toy, but remember, a very aggressive chewer can always do a lot of damage, so keep a careful eye on them when playing. It is 1.65 lbs in weight.
2. Runner-Up: LECHONG Dog Rope Toys
- Easy to wash
- Sized well for German Shepherds
- Will help clean teeth, as well as keep brains active and engaged
- Ships with a prominent dye smell—wash before use
- Natural fibers may be better for tug of war than chewing, as strings can break off
- Will need to be thoroughly dried if it gets wet, or there is a risk of mold
Another rope-style design of tug toy, this rope is all-cotton, making it easy to wash and pretty safe to chew. Of course, dogs should always be monitored if they are aggressive chewers.
At 3 feet in length, and weighing in at 1.5 pounds, it’s also great to play tug-of-war with your pet.
It’s also an excellent choice for teething pups of bigger breeds, with a very satisfying mouth feel that should keep them entertained for hours.
3. Best Value for Money: ChuckIt! Ultra Duo Tug Dog Toy
- Wide range of compatible toys
- Two dogs can play with it together
- Soft and gentle on the dog’s mouth
- Not a great choice for compulsive chewers; it has no chew capability
The ChuckIt has become an iconic tug toy for dogs, and for a good reason. It is designed as two attached tennis balls and can be used for fun play between two equally matched dogs.
It can be used with ChuckIt-compatible tennis ball launchers. It’s very bouncy, easy to see if it gets lost, and designed to be gentle on a dog’s mouth.
The flexible rubber also makes it easier for your dog to pick up.
4. Alternative: Nerf Dog Vortex Chain Tug
- Bright colors are easy to spot outside
- Interesting design to stimulate smart hounds
- Robust center rope
- Squeakers are not a good choice for some dogs
- The football can be a weak point with aggressive chewers
Nerf is another well-known toy brand for dogs, and this is a fun addition to their range.
Designed with a squeaky “football” at one end, and a durable, knotted tug body, it’s an interesting design that will challenge smart breeds like the German Shepherd visually and in mouth-feel, too.
It’s over 2 feet in length and has undergone vigorous testing to ensure your dog’s safety so that it can be used unsupervised (within reason).
5. Alternative: Tonka Rubber 3-Ring Tug
- Easy to locate colors
- Novel design for fun new play
- No fabric in the design
- Some dogs may take a while to adapt to the play style
- It’s important to realize this is not a chew toy; it’s a tug-and-throw toy
This is a novel shape to stimulate your dog’s mind, as well as their tug reflexes. You may even be able to teach them a trick or two with it.
Its yellow and black coloration makes it easy to see if it gets mislaid, too. Its weight and size, are durable, and the no-fabric design means it can be used in water without mold issues.
It’s 10.5 inches in length, so a great size for medium-to-large breeds.
6. Alternative: UPSKY Dog Rope
- Good for double dog households
- Convenient loop to hold when you play with your dog
- Good customer service that’s actively engaged
- As with all cotton rope-style toys on the list, aggressive chewers may pull strings off
- The fringe can become a focal point for chewing for some dogs
This is an all-cotton tug rope design that’s a little shorter than the others on our list. It can be tugged or thrown and chewed (under supervision) to massage gums and clean teeth.
This is a great choice for a multi-dog household, as there are two in each pack. There’s a loop for you to hold, with three knots down the length.
7. Alternative: Mammoth Flossy Chews Color Rope Tug
- Less prone to strings than other products, so safe for chewing (and flossing)
- Simple fun for your pet
- Short, so only suitable for some dogs
- Not 100% cotton
This is a super-simple, three-knot rope design. It’s made from cotton-poly yarn for added lifespan, durability – for chewing, and teeth flossing.
This is a 15-inch to 26-inch rope, so smaller than the other ropes on the list. This makes it great for tossing play, but it may be too short for aggressive tuggers.
Tug Toys For Dogs FAQ
While we hope that our guide has been helpful, we know there are some common questions about tug toys that get asked again and again. Here are a few to help you.
Are Tugging Toys Suitable for Dogs?
Many dogs love a game of tug. If they have the instinct to grab onto a toy and hang on, then you can leverage tug-of-war as a great way to burn off energy, bond, and even teach them good manners for letting go of toys.
However, if you’ve never noticed any tug drive in your dog, it might be a waste of time to try and engage them.
Can You Hurt a Dog’s Teeth Playing Tug?
Yes, you can hurt your dog’s teeth playing tug, and you shouldn’t! Don’t jerk the toy around wildly, but keep it light and fun. You don’t have to win, so shelve the competitiveness.
Make sure your dog has a good grip on the toy, pull consistently, and don’t try to lift your dog off the floor with it.
Do Tug Toys Make Dogs Aggressive?
Tug toys won’t make a dog aggressive. However, the fun and high spirits of playing with their jaws clamped down can be a bad idea for a dog with existing aggression problems.
A lot of it also comes down to your behavior. You’ll recreate that in your dog if you go wild and mean.
Always play fairly, and while bigger dogs may not enjoy “gentle”, keep it light-hearted and kind-spirited, and pack the toy away if anyone gets too wound up.
Why Do Dogs Love a Tug-War?
No one really knows! However, it’s similar to many “doggy” actions, allows bonding with a human or another dog, and allows for a healthy presentation of their prey drive, so it’s understandable why it has such a wide appeal to dogs.
In conclusion, tug-of-war games are a great way to burn some energy from your active dog, engage their minds and hearts, and bond with them through fun play.
Finding a great tug toy for your dog—or a collection of them—is an affordable way to have fantastic fun with them in a way that appeals to a wide range of dogs.
With this nifty guide to help you, many happy hours of fun are ahead of you both.