For anyone who’s not a major dog nerd like us, chances are you haven’t thought too deeply about the different types of tug toys for dogs, and what’s the point of those differences. Much like toys or appliances for humans, some of it comes down to functionality and serving different purposes (as we discuss here), and some of it just comes down to personal preference and the aesthetic. Although in case you couldn’t tell, we think everything is better in rainbow.
If you figure that it’s going to get destroyed anyway, it’s probably tempting to just go with whatever cheap tug toy you come across, see here for our advice on how to avoid that. And to an extent, that’s fine – we all start with the basics. But as with any sport or hobby, it’s valuable to have the right tool for the job. Having the right tool makes you more effective and reduces the risk of injury while engaging in that hobby – be it wood-working, gardening or playing tug with your dog. Yes, seriously. If you look at any sports shoe retailer, you’ll quickly see how there are different sneakers recommended for sprinting vs trail-running, or basketball vs tennis. Tug toys for dogs are much the same. Although we feel the differences are a lot simpler and easier to track than stuff like foot pronation or motion-stability.
But the best thing about tug toys, is you don’t have to be super serious about tug time, or into any kind of dog sports in order to be mindful about your tug choices. Tugs are for every dog, and we’re here to make it super simple for you to choose the best tug for your dog.
But, you may be thinking, I don’t even play tug. Why are they so obsessed with tug...
Why Play Tug?
Playing tug, or tug-of-war, is one of the most effective games you can play with your dog. By effective, we mean that when you look at the play time to benefit ratio, tug is right up there. Tug is a game best played in short bursts with your dog. In those short bursts, your dog is learning impulse control, building confidence, burning physical energy and being mentally stimulated and more. Tug is such a valuable tool for not just training and exercising your dog, but also building a rapport with them.
We’ve been told in the past that letting your dog win leads to ‘dominance’ issues. But this is thoroughly debunked and untrue. To the contrary, when your dog ‘wins’ tug; it increases their confidence and enjoyment of the game. It gives them a chance to bring the toy back to you, to initiate more play. If you lost every time you played Monopoly, you’d start to lose interest pretty soon.
So, not only are you helping your dog become more physically and mentally stimulated, and more confident – you're also building that relationship with your dog, giving them reasons to see YOU as the best, most fun person ever. This type of dynamic is incredibly valuable when in busy or social situations as your dog learns that none of those big or noisy distractions matter when they’re with the coolest person ever!
Getting Into Tug
For some dogs, playing tug comes naturally. I used to have a dog that would take an empty soda bottle and try to play tug with that! But some dogs seem utterly baffled at the concept, and don’t quite know what to do with the tug you give them. This is simple enough to fix by using the right type of tug for your dog (a starter tug, if you will), and also ensuring that you entice and reward your dog as they play until they get the hang of it. Before long, the game of tug becomes its own reward.
When it comes to choosing the right type of tug toy for your dog, there are a lot of factors that come into play. I know, we said this wouldn’t be complicated, and don’t worry, we’ll lay it all out for you. But it helps to understand that there can be different benefits to different types of tugs; whether its animal hide to pique their interest (terriers and retrievers might be more interested in rabbit or fox fur), or a bungee-ball combo for the dog that is already ball-obsessed.
Fleece, Fur and Flax Linen
You’ll notice that here at Wildhunde, we use a small variety of materials to make our tugs. If you look at different retailers and manufacturers, you’ll find an even greater range of materials used – some will claim the most super-duper indestructible materials (see here for why that’s a gimmick), and some will claim some other unforeseen benefits – as though the right type of fiber could increase your dogs IQ.
As a brief overview, the different types of materials used in tugs are also a factor in how they are best used. Many of our tugs utilise a braided fleece fabric, which ensures a soft mouth experience, with a supple and strong rope-like configuration to withstand tug. Animal hide, whether it’s sheepskin, kangaroo, fox, or rabbit fur; are all irresistibly enticing to a dog but each come with pros and cons. Rabbit fur, for example, is not as durable or tough as sheepskin; but can be a far more exciting hide for your Jack Russell, who was bred to hunt rodents and rabbits.
Other dog toys can be made of anything from denim to felt, and everything in between. All have their pros and cons. We’ve chosen French flax linen for our Tug and Bite pillows as it feels like a perfect balance of soft mouthfeel with an easy grip, while being durable and sustainable (yay, environment!). Once you know the benefits of different materials, it makes more sense to take those factors into account when buying your dog’s next tug toy. The same goes for yourself when choosing clothes; you know that wearing polyester in summer is going to leave you feeling sweaty, whereas cotton breathes more.
No choice is necessarily right, or wrong – it's just about choosing tug toys that work better for you and your dog.
Choosing the Right Tug for Your Dog
When you first look at the different tug toy options, it can seem a little bit overwhelming or confusing – what's the point of these tugs and what is the best choice for your dog? The choice can vary depending on your dog’s interest level, play style and size. It’s also important to take your own needs into account too, since tug is a team game that you play with your dog. You want to choose a tug that is comfortable for you to hold during all the thrashing and well, tugging.
So, let’s get into it.
The All-Rounder: Zoom and Chase Sheepskin Tug
First let us introduce you to our flagship tug, the perfect starter, and a true all-rounder. The Zoom and Chase is always going to be an excellent choice for your dog, whether they’re a beginner or a veteran at the game.
The Zoom and Chase is designed so that there’s no right or wrong way to play with it. Braided fleece all the way down means that it’s soft and comfy for them to grab at any point, and not tough on your hands. Real Australian sheepskin woven into one end provides a point of interest that will help to entice even the most stoic dog.
Other tug toys have a designated handle made of webbing, which means your dog needs to have a much more targeted approach to tug. The Zoom and Chase takes that out of the equation and provides easy fun for any dog.
Choosing for Size
If you want to ensure you’re selecting the right tug for your dog based on size, you can always opt for our toys that have multiple options based on size. But there’s often more to it than that.
For the little ones (whether by breed or just age), we recommend considering a few factors aside from size (which is a given). For puppies, it’s a good idea to choose something that will be soft on the mouth, as they’re not quite ready for the tough stuff. A small dog is also much closer to the ground than you, so consider a tug toy that can be dragged on the ground within easy reach of your pup. Terriers might be more enticed by something like rabbit-hide, to call on those genetic instincts and get them excited about tug.
The Chase N Pull Flirt Pole is a great starting point. It creates the action and excitement of tug, while using a light and gentle target to grab. Consider adding a Play and Bite Mini Puppy Pillow for some extra bite.
For the midsize pups, we also need to consider more than just 'how big'. The spectrum of medium-size dogs varies wildly when you consider that Whippets and Cocker Spaniels belong there as much as Staffies and Labradors. Can your dog handle a dense and chunky tug? Or are they better suited to a tug that allows a bigger range of movement? Knowing the way your dog likes to play can help you narrow down your choices significantly.
Moving up in size and complexity, the Wild-Tug Sheepskin Bungee Tug Toy is a great option for a medium dog with a big bite. Layered sheepskin forms a dense mouthful, and the bungee cord creates comfortable tug feedback. Other tugs we suggest for medium dogs are the Zoom and Play Sheepskin Ball Tug (Medium), the Wildhunde Pocket Tug and Bite Toy (for teaching some targeted play), or the Chase N Pull Flirt Pole with a Sheepskin Flirt Pole attachment for more interest.
When you've got a big boy pup, sometimes it’s just a matter of finding a tug toy that can withstand their bite and strength. Some large dogs are still pretty gentle by nature, while some big dogs can get worked up and need something hardy to survive tug time. Regardless, you still need something that suits your dog’s size because even the most gentle big dog will have a surprising amount of strength when they really get into tug.
For your Great Dane or Mastiff-sized pup, we suggest the Orbee-Tuff Sheepskin Tug, as the Orbee-Tuff ball is generously sized and sturdy for your dog to bite into. Other great options are the Wild-Tug Sheepskin Bungee Tug Toy with Padded Handle, the Wildhunde Tug and Bite Toy or the Wild-Tug Long Double Handle Sheepskin Tug Toy. All options provide a nice big target for your dog to strike at, and it’s just on you to make sure you’re braced for major tuggage (it’s totally a word).
Tugs for Different Play Styles
Different dogs have different ways and interests when it comes to play time – some show more interest in chasing a moving target, some prefer to get up close and personal, and of course there’s the ball dogs.
This is when you want your dog to play tug with a specific target on the tug toy. This can be a great way to teach your dog accuracy and control during play. It’s also an excellent mental stimulation for your pup as it provides a more challenging and engaging type of tug that means they have to work just a little bit harder.
To introduce your dog to the idea of targeted tug, we suggest starting with the Triple Twist Double Handed Light Sheepskin Tug; it provides an easy centre target, but if they miss the target – no harm done. Our Wild-Tug Sheepskin Ring Tug Toy with Bungee Padded Handle provides a unique ring shape, keeping your fingers out of range while still bracing yourself on the padded handle.
These are the dogs that get really intense about tug. Within seconds, your sweet pup turns into a berserker warrior primed to conquer the enemy fluff. If you have a dog with a high prey drive, this is what you need for tug. With bungee cord and maneuverability, these toys are designed to withstand the death rolls, while engaging that primal part of the doggy brain that’s just gotta thrash.
Every toy on this list includes bungee cord, a must have that provides the essential feedback of tug to your dog, while keeping your arm in its socket. Try any of these for your furry headbanger: Wild-Tug Sheepskin Bungee Tug Toy, Wild-Tug Long Sheepskin Tug Toy with Drag Line Bungee (its extra long handle is perfect for dragging across the ground to chase), the Wild-Tug Ultra Fluff Sheepskin Bungee Tug Toy or the Wild-Tug Sheepskin Bungee and Holee Ball Tug Toy.
Using a ball tug is an easy way to get your ball or fetch-obsessed pup to learn the joys of tug. Start with a game of fetch, and let it roll into a game of tug. All our ball-tugs use the toughest and best-quality balls around (only the best for our ball aficionados) ensuring that your pup gets multiple ways to enjoy their tug toy.
Start the evolution of fetch to tug using the Fetch and Go Ball, with its high bounce ball that creates interesting movement for your pup. Another Wildhunde tug staple is the Zoom and Play Sheepskin Tug Ball; the sheepskin is threaded through the Holee ball itself, making it the Kinder Surprise of tugs.
Tugs for Different Goals
As we know well by now, tug can serve many different roles for you and your dog. It’s an excellent outlet for play and exercise but can also be used as a tool for building drive or even as a training tool.
If your goal is just to exercise and play with your dog, then a variety of options are open to you. Any good tug worth its salt will do the job of getting your pup engaged with the game, ensuring they walk away from the game tired, happy and fulfilled.
Pick something that appeals to your dog; using a combination of fleece, balls and/or animal hide. Any of these toys will work well: the Zoom and Chase Sheepskin Tug (it’s our front runner tug for a reason!), the Zoom and Play Sheepskin Tug Ball, the Triple Twist Sheepskin and Ball Tug or the Zoom and Tug Sheepskin Toy.
Playing tug is an amazingly effective way to build drive in your dog. All dogs have it, some of them just need a bit of encouragement to coax it out and then build that engagement. The idea of building drive means using something exciting and animated, something that mimics prey and triggers that primitive doggy urge to chase and bite. Look for toys with a lot of dynamic movement, animal hide and squeakers to emulate the sound of... something squeaky.
You know we can’t go past the Chase N Pull Flirt Pole, it’s the natural choice to get your dog excited and start building that drive. Add one of our sheepskin, or pillow attachments. Animal hide is another easy way to elevate your dog’s drive; so try our Wild-Tug Kangaroo Bungee Tug Toy (or rabbit, or fox, or sheepskin). The Wild-Tug Wattle Ultra Fluff Sheepskin Bungee Tug Toy with Padded Handle has a dancey, wiggly movement to it and the Wild-Tug Long Sheepskin Squeaker Tug Toy with Drag Line Bungee is pretty self-explanatory. If there’s one thing dogs and kids have in common, it’s that they love obnoxiously loud toys. Three large squeakers inside this tug will stimulate your dog’s prey drive immensely.
If your dog loves tug already and you want to elevate your training game without forking out tidbits and treats constantly, then consider tug as a valuable reward for training. Choose a compact toy that’s designed for quick and effective play, and keep it in your back pocket or tucked under your arm for an easy reward during heelwork or other training.
Any of these compact tug options will work well to have on hand during your training sessions, or as a training tool themselves: the Wildhunde Pocket Tug and Bite Toy, the Sheepskin Pocket Tug, the Wildhunde Pocket Play and Bite Pillow or the Wild-Tug Sheepskin Tug Toy with Padded Handle.
Above all else, playing tug with your dog should be fun for both you AND your dog. So, while our comprehensive guide seems like a lot of fuss over a bunch of tug toys for dogs – we strongly believe that choosing the right toy for you and your dog matters.
Now when you look at tug toys for your dog, you can distinguish the different types, and know what those differences mean. Essentially, knowing what materials are used, as well as how the design of each tug matters – can help you identify exactly what you want and need out of a tug. This allows you, the consumer, to make an informed decision.
So, while you may not be a major dog nerd like we are, you’re a little bit closer to it now!