Paste your Bing Webmaster Tools verification code here


I would have to say that almost any guy who plays with his Labrador his favorite game is the good ‘old’ game of Tug of War. Many K-9 professionals are against the Tug-of-War pastime as they say it increases aggression in the dogs yet we still do it, anyone who owns a Lab is guilty of this little pleasure and yet no aggressive cases have stemmed from it but what about the rope? No one ever questions the rope and if it’s safe for the dogs. I have a bit of very interesting information that I truly hope will open some people eyes to the safety of their new lifelong friend, the Labrador Retriever.


There is no direct yes or no answer to this question but the best way to answer it would be like any other dog toy. With proper supervision, with careful and knowledge-based purchases, rope dog toys can be safe …and lots of fun as well! So, what knowledge do you need to keep your lab puppy safe with these potentially dangerous and very popular tug-of-war rope toys?

Just before we get into this, I will quickly share my credentials on this topic so you know it will be legit information on this topic. I was raised and lived on a sailboat for my entire childhood. My parents owned one of the largest rope manufacturers in Canada during this time. They supplied rope for Hydro One, Redpath Sugar freight lines, numerous Fire stations, specialized police task forces, tugboats and many private boats, yachts and multi-million dollar yachts all over North America. My mother helped me make my own little venture on the side when I saw rope dog bones in a local pet store. I knew I could make these with my parents’ rope products. So my mother helped me contact veterinaries, professional dog trainers, pet store sales clerks, lawyers, surgeons, a veterinary pathologist and even veterinary colleges like the very reputable one here in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. It took us near 6-months to obtain all the necessary information before we made an educated decision on whether it was safe and humane to create and sell dog rope toys. So, I think I have the credentials to talk about this very often overlooked topic.


There are 4 styles of rope; single braid or platt rope, double braid rope, cord or cordage and finally three-strand rope. In the image below, you can see that Double braid has an outer sheath with an inner core. Single braid or platt rope is just the outer sheath with no core. Both of these braids you DO NOT want your dog to have. These are usually fully synthetic materials and have often been treated with assortments of dyes and bleaches.

Double braided rope with core exposed, bad for fog toys
Double braided rope with core exposed
difference between single and double braided rope
difference between single and double braided rope

Next, you have cordage or cord can have a core or no core at all but follows the weave double braided line but comes in very small diameters and are made up of fully synthetic materials. Cordage also tends to be very vibrant meaning the rope has been submitted to many other chemicals, dyes, bleaches etc… believe it or not, there is a lot of cordage used on cheaper made toys.

A cord rope with a core present. Bad for dog toys.
Cord rope with a core

The only rope you are going to allow your puppy is what is known as triple or 3-stranded rope. This is the classic nautical look and is traditionally made with natural materials such as Cotton, Hemp, and Burlap. 3-strand is a softer weave design that allows the strands to be able to wrap around the teeth like a natures’ toothbrush. Along with the natural materials makes it by far the natural choice for your puppy or dog.

3-strand rope separated
Three stranded rope separated so you can see the individual strands


The above image is a Nylon/Ankerlene blended 3-stranded rope but you can really see the construction of the rope really well. You can also tell by the sheen of the rope as synthetic composite materials have a sheen to them as for where naturals tend to be dull in appearance.

Fancy lock stitching on 3-strand rope
Sancy whipping lock stitching

You want to use only 100% unbleached cotton triple or 3-stranded rope. This way your puppy or dog can manage to swallow some, their digestive track will be able to break down the cotton. Also, being 100% cotton, you can simply through it through the washing machine to freshen it up on the regular. You only want a rope that is in the shape of a bone, knotted and lock stitched with waxed thread. A continuous circle knotted at the end would also work. The waxed thread prevents the cotton thread being broken down by saliva enzymes. You can see fancy lock stitch or whipping with waxed thread in the above image. A simple lock stitch would suffice though. These 2 basic designs promote durability and longevity in the rope toy by stopping unraveling.

Only use a rope that has a minimum diameter of 3/4″ and a length longer than 18″ in total length. This also ensures if a piece of the rope, an individual carrier, cannot get twisted in the digestive tract. Once you see one of the three strands begin to fray, the toy should be removed from your puppy or dog for safety reasons just like any other dog toy showing signs of wear.

As long as you get the right material and have certain safety measures in place, rope bones, tug-of-war rings are actually a very healthy choice as far as dog toys are considered, helping clean teeth and promote healthy gums. If you do play tug-of-war with your pooch, rope bones or tug rings are much safer on teeth and enamel than hard rubber which can also contain BPA chemicals as well. The all natural 100% unbleached, uncolored cotton 3 strand rope is natures’ best chew toy!

You can see the melted Nylon in the end
You can see the melted Nylon in the end

This is a Nylon/Ankerlene blend double braid rope bone dog toy, definitely not your best choice. You can see the ends have been melted to stop the core from separating from the cover and prevent unraveling. Natural materials will not melt, synthetic materials will melt.

KONG makes one of if not the best dog chew toys out there. KONG is also one of the few companies that use naturals dyes on their rope toys and also use only cotton rope but they do not use locking stitches. They do however place there knots under extreme pressure to lock them into place. KONG would be the only colored rope dog toy I would ever recommend to other Labrador Retrievers and other dog lovers.

Now if there is any rope dog toy I would call the best it would have to be the 6″ or 10″ Flossy Chews as these are made the exact same way as I used to make my rope bones. 100% all natural cotton, uncolored, unbleached, locking stitched, fully biodegradable and machine washable rope bone dog toys.

I hope this has helped you become a little more aware of the type of toys you purchase for your puppy and even consider the materials in which they are made from. One little thing to clear the air as I can already hear people going off about how you shouldn’t play tug-of-war with your puppies or dogs. Unfortunately, I am going to save that for another post in the near future. In the meantime, if you have any stories, experiences both positive and negative, regarding rope dog toys, or maybe you just have a question I maybe overlooked or did not cover in this post, please leave a comment down below. There will also be links to these posts on our Facebook page as well as our Google+ and Twitter accounts so be sure to check them out and give us a like.

KONG all natural rope tug toy
KONG all natural rope tug toy

Lastly, in the coming weeks, we will be launching a neat little section leading up to the spring season so be sure to enable notifications when joining our Facebook group which you can get to through the links on the sidebar. I wish you all the best and I will see you in Basic Training as that begins this weekend with the “come” command first. If you would like to get more great information like this, please join our FREE mailing list, just enter your information below for more tips, tricks, reviews and discounts on featured products. Don’t worry, your information is like fleas, we’ll make sure no one gets them. Remember to hug your Labrador today!!

Flossy Chews 6" rope bone
Flossy Chews 6″ rope bone

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Hello there! I just adopted a male labrador puppy. He’s very cute and he’s playful. I just been to a pet store once and I only bought necessary stuffs like bed, cage, training pads, food, bowl and etc. I haven’t bought him any toys yet and I’m planning to go to the store again. The store offers different kind of toys from cheap to expensive one. I was thinking of getting the cheapest one but after I read your article I should buy better material toys to prevent complications. Thank you for sharing this information.

    1. First off, I would like to thank you for your comment. Next, I am sure your new furry friend would like to thank you for giving him a second chance at a forever home, so good on you!! How old is your new Labrador?

      Be sure to take him shopping with you when buying toys for him. First you want to get something  he likes. Secondly, when given a choice, dogs will usually go with better made toys as they can sense the cheaper materials. Check out our article on the top toys we recommend through our personal experience for the best choice in Chew and Interactive toy choices that you Lab is sure to love. Here’s a link; Best toys for a Labrador Retriever.

      We are also just starting on our Basic Training section and every other day will have a new lesson added. All of these can be applied to a dog of any age. Here’s a link to the section of the Basic Training section. I wish you all the best with your new found friend and if you should have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

  2. Hi there,

    This article was great! I really appreciate all of your expertise in this subject and guidance for choosing the right rope toy for our dog. I’ve had a lab before and he did loooove his tug-of-war games … and I think this article is useful for any dog owner as well … my cocker spaniel loves to tug too 🙂 I really didn’t know the difference between rope toys before reading your article or the difference in the safety of synthetic vs natural materials. I’m so grateful to know now and have some great recommendations. You should start selling your own rope toys again!
    Thanks again,

    1. Unfortunately Katie, my parents have sold the rope manufacturing business and now sail around the Caribbean and South America, last I heard it was Belize. So, my rope bone making days are done…for the time being.

      Thank you for your great comment. Having comments like this one make all the long nights of research, design and implementation all worth it. It has actually become quite scary to me, the number of pet owners, not just dog owners, that do not look into the safety of the toys for their pets. Here is a link to another article on the top 6 interactive chew toys. All these toys are BPA and Phthalates free.

      You will also notice that 2/3 of them are made by a company called West Paw and for good reason, these have made it on to the list. All their toys for both dogs and cats are the safest, durable on the market. Best of all, the animals absolutely love them. My local police force have even changed all their K-9 training programs to include them. I also do not receive any perks or commissions from them, I just believe these truly are the best choice for your pet

      Also, 1 week from today, we will be starting a new column that will have recipes for healthy dog snacks that you can make at home for next to nothing, be sure to check it out! There’s a Christmas Crunchy treat your cocker spaniel will love! You and your puppy have a happy holiday! Thanks for your support Katie.

  3. Hello Jair,
    Great to see a fellow dog blogger on here. Labs and Goldens are wonderful dogs. Right now I have a Great Pyrenees who loves rope toys. This article is excellent and taught me a lot. I prefer the synthetic rope toys for all my visiting dogs (I am a dog sitter with I haven’t met any other dog bloggers on here so would like to follow you.

    1. Thanks for the comment Lauren, I also agree that there are not as many doggers (dog+blogger) on here as I would have thought. Be careful with the synthetic ropes. Depending on what the run of that particular rope was for, you can actually get MFP (multifilament-polypropylene) shards that the dogs can swallow, it’s like us with asbestos. You can also get Ankerlene which is a Nylon/polyester blend that is treated with a chemical that doesn’t allow the fibers to take on any moisture so there is zero chance of it being broken down if swallowed. I would also be wary of the chemical as I would imagine it’s like eating one of those moisture catchers that you get inside new shoes as it’s designed for the same purpose.

      It’s actually a shame that some companies just do not care about dogs safety and produce dog toys that have BPA and Phthalates in them, same goes for the rope toys but even worse, very few people even consider the rope being unsafe for dogs.

      The Great Pyrenees Mountain Dogs are great dogs, they are so fluffy!! I will check out your site and we may be able to help one another and help more dogs have better forever homes. Remember to hug your Great Pyrenees today!!

  4. Hi there,
    This was a lot of information on ropes in general. Good, because these are things I never would have thought off. Important to know what to look for in order to buy safe toys for your dog. I guess we just assume that because something is sold as a “dog toy” then it should automatically be safe for our dogs but unfortunately this is not always the case.
    I run a dog training site myself and I am going to recommend your article to my readers.
    Thank you.

    1. Thank you Jojo for your kind comment. I wrote this article for exactly this reason. There are lots of companies that produce chew and interactive dog toys that are full full of BPA & Phthalates yet only a select few actually make it known that this is a unsafe practice. In regards to rope toys, I couldn’t come across anyone who wrote about this so I felt it was necessary to try and educate the masses and help protect our furry friends.

      I would love for you to share this article on your site so that we might make the world a little safer for our furry friends. I would also like to visit your site, we may be able to help each other and more importantly, help more pooches. Especially with the holidays upon us, this article will hopefully educate dog owners to think twice when buying a cheaply made toy for their four legged friend this holiday season.

      What is your sites URL or what is it called so I can Google it? Thanks again for your support and have a happy holiday season. Hug your dog today!!

  5. Hi there,
    This was a lot of information on ropes in general. Good, because these are things I never would have thought off. Important to know what to look for in order to buy safe toys for your dog. I guess we just assume that because something is sold as a “dog toy” then it should automatically be safe for our dogs but unfortunately this is not always the case.
    I run a dog training site myself and I am going to recommend your article to my readers.
    Thank you.

  6. Hi Jair I enjoyed your article on the safety of rope toys. This is one toy that I do not have for my dog. I found them to be unsafe in a weird way so I do not buy them anymore.
    Years ago when my ducks were just little I gave them a toy that looked like a football but it had rope coming out of both ends. I went out to check on them in the evening before locking them up and the one duckling was choking on a piece of the rope fiber. Somehow it was down his throat and wrapped around his tongue. We managed to get it out and he was OK. It got me to thinking though if a little duck who cannot chew and tear like a dog can get in trouble with these chew toys what can a curious chewing puppy do? From that day on I have banned rope toys.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Maureen, I am very glad your Duck came through alright. This is why in the article I stated that a rope toy to be no longer than a total of 18″, so that when knotted on both ends, the rope bone will be 1 foot long. This way with the wax lock stitch in place, if they manage to separate a carrier thread, it would only be 12″ long and being cotton, this would not be an issue in most situations. But even a duck can choke on a dust bunny in the right situations. 

      I believe you just have to do some prior research for your pets to make the best educated choices for them. The amount of dog toys I see that are positive for BPA & Phthalates is actually quite scary. The real scary situation is when your in a situation like you were and almost become a statistic. I am glad everything worked out in the end for you and I am glad you liked and learned from the article. Thank you for your continued support and I wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

      How many ducks do you have? What breeds are they? I grew up on a sailboat and raised a Canadian goose from almost hatchling till he could fly as he got separated from his family and almost drowned. I couldn’t get him back into another family so we raised him till he could fly and then got him into a flock. I saw him 3 migrations in a row then I never saw him again. We named him Bert the guard goose.

      1. Hi Jair right now I have 19 ducks. They are what is know as Rouens which is a duck basically raised for meat. They are too big and heavy to fly. Our neighbors moved and left them behind and they wandered over to my place. I still have one of the originals and he is about 17 now. I live not too far from Toronto over in the Niagara Peninsula. That is so neat that you took the goose in. I can understand why you called him a guard goose they can be quite protective.

        1. I think it’s great when people like us (not to honk our own honkers) do what we can to help any sort of animal. 19 ducks are A LOT of ducks!! I know Rouens as we had a family when I lived in the Toronto Islands. They are a very entertaining lot but can get a little rowdy at times. When I had the Canadian goose and lived at home on the boat, our whole interior was made out of teak and the bottom of the doors all had louvers. He was very protective of my mother and was not a fan of my father. He went chasing after my father one morning and did not make a turn fast enough and slid beak-first into the louvers and got stuck. Was very entertaining but became a little dramatic trying to remove a 3 lbs gooses beak from a wood door and keep him calm so as not to hurt himself. The amazing thing though, I never would have thought a Canadian goose to be affectionate like a cat or dog but he showed all the emotions of a household cat or dog including being protective.

  7. Hi Jair,

    What a great background you have for the venture you are on.

    As the proud owner of a 3 year old Golden Retriever we have had many adventures together. She gets at least 2 hours of exercise every day and is a real happy camper.

    I have kind of backed off rope toys having several previous Golden’s. The concern I had was the males I had were really aggressive between themselves to the point I thought it would loosed teeth. Maybe I am all wet here.

    What do you think?

    Also I like the puppy rope you described and of course the ability to keep it clean for them.

    Wonderful information.

    1. Good on you exercising your labs properly. Most people overlook the fact that Labrador Retrievers are a high energy dog and need a good consistent exercise regiment. Not only that the brisk walking is also good for you. Even if you are unable to do a good exercise routine like the 2-3 hours a day look into a doggy knapsack and add some rocks or free weights to them, it will help drain the unneeded excessive energy.

      As for the rope toys and ripping out the teeth. Like anything that goes in your dogs mouth can have potential of ripping out teeth and obviously adding rope toys to the mix is an added concern. If you use the proper cotton rope toys this would not be a concern as the weave or braided 3-strand rope is very loose and will slide right off the teeth. Using a double or platt braid is much tighter braid and uses finer carrier threads that can get caught on a jagged surface making letting go under pressure a potential for a tooth problem.

      Every dog just like every human, they have their own distinctive health traits like weak teeth or a weak jaw and you know your dogs better than anyone else. So if your hearing yelps or seeing any blood on the white cotton rope, I would recommend  you making the best call for your Labs. Just ensure that you use only 100% unbleached, uncolored cotton 3-strand rope and make sure it’s no longer than 18″. So when they are knotted on both ends and lock stitched, the rope bone or loop toy is short enough that they can not wined up and death shake their head with a another dog on the other end. I would also have one toy per dog with one extra floating around so there is no fighting over toys.

      If you have any other questions or concerns regarding this topic or others, please do not hesitate to drop us an email at any time. Also, keep an eye out starting the 12th of this month as we start a new segment  about great, healthy dog recipes that you can make from home dirt cheap. There’s even a Christmas Crunch Cookie in there. Keep up the great work with your exercise regime and have a safe and happy holiday season.

  8. What an eye opening article! Very well written and informative, i had no idea there were so many things to consider when choosing a rope tug of war toy for your dog.
    I have had dogs my whole life and always enjoy learning about new ways to better accommodate their needs 🙂

    That is a very cool background story, good for you for branching off into your own interest area which using all of the resources available to make the best product possible. May I ask what your rope toy was called?

    1. Cheers mate for the kind words.  I am very glad you enjoyed the read and that you got something from it. I have just found that in today’s world, everyone is so busy that our pets are not getting the exercise they need and getting more cheap quality supplies from food to toys to even proper medications. So I figure  whatever I can do to enrich our pets lives and increase the healthiness of our pet/handler relationships, I will feel I have done my part.

      Unfortunately, my parents sold the rope business and have retired on their catamaran sailing around South America so I am no longer making the rope toys but they were called Know Knots. If you’re looking for a quality rope bone, Flossy Chews are your best bet and they can be purchased at most pet stores Amazon and Walmart. Wish you all the best and have a happy and safe holiday season.

  9. I’m not only a dog lover, but a dog owner as well. My pit bull is the most gentle, friendly dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I had no idea the difference between rope toys. You’ve really helped me out here. In fact I just went through his toys and had to throw out 2 of his rope toys. I also wanted to say, people that say tug-o-war breeds violence in dogs , are wrong. Dogs are not violent ever. They may develop fear response that causes fight or flight type response, but this is always due to human mishandling. There is no such thing as a bad dog, just bad dog owners. Thanks for the info, I’ll check back occasionally to see if I can pick up any more tips to help my best friend

    1. Thanks Nick for your great comment. I currently have an Am-staff or American Pit Terrier crossed with a Staffordshire Terrier or a big “pitbull”. I am a huge “pitbull” activist (I hate using the term “pitbull”) Your comment summed up everything that I can not even comment on it. I will have a new site in the early months of 2018 dedicated to bully breeds, so please keep an eye out for that. 

      The only thing I can add to your perfect said comment, to the people that believe tug-of-war breeds aggression, do wild dogs (if there’s such a thing anymore) do dogs not play tug-of-war with their siblings? Exactly!! There’s an old saying that holds truth here, “it’s not the gun, it’s the gunner.” I wish you all the best Nick and have a happy and safe holiday season. Have you hugged your bully today?

  10. Thanks for the information. i didn’t realize there was so many different types of rope. The next time I buy a rope for my dog I will be more aware of the material.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Paula. Unfortunately, there are a lot of products out there that are fully detrimental to our furry four-legged friends. All we can do is do our part with a little research and make the best possible choice for our loved labrador puppies and dogs. Just remember it’s not just rope but rubbers and plastics that can contain BPA and Phthalates or food with an ash content that is too high or bacteria infested treats from overseas. I have even heard but not confirmed the clasps of leashes and collars bring made from lead.

      If my website can educate a single reader and make that one dogs life better, I have succeeded my goal and today, you are that person. I wish you all the best Paula and please have a happy and safe holiday season. Remember to hug your lab today!

      One other little tidbit starting December 12, we will have a new segment containing healthy recipes that you can make from home with ease and be costing less than store-bought treats. This way you know exactly what your pup is getting. I even have a special Christmas Crunchy Cookie to fill your puppies stocking with.

  11. Thanks for the information. I didn’t realize there were so many types of ropes to choose from. The next time I buy a rope for my pet. I will be more aware of the material. I will not go for the cheapest thing I can buy. I will look more at how safe the rope is.

    1. Thank you Paula, for taking the time to leave a comment. It always makes me feel good when I hear a follow to my website tell me they learned something that will improve their dogs living situation health and safety wise. I am very glad you did learn something and enjoyed the article for what it is.

      Unfortunately, in today’s society, fewer and fewer people are paying attention to the needs and desires of their dogs. Even adequate exercise is not being provided. Running around the dog park for 30 minutes although is physical activity is not exercising, otherwise we would all be going to Six Flags Amusement park to exercise right? Labradors especially need exercise that provides them with a purpose since they are work dogs so a brisk hard walk with a weighted knapsack would be more beneficial to your dog then an hour at the dog park running around.

      Also, there are an abundant of unsafe dog toys on the market that contain BPA & Phthalates in the plastic or having plastic that breaks off in shards or small granules that cause all kinds of digestive tract complications. It is best to join a forum or blog pertaining to your specific breed as you will be informed of products to watch out for and have recommendations for products that can enrich your puppy or dog’s life in a positive way. Here’s a great list of top choices for chew/interactive dog toys. The list is compiled through my own experience and other dog professionals and I receive no benefits,money or product perks for my recommendations as my only agenda is for the better of the dogs.

      I thank you Paula for your continued support and wish you a safe and happy holiday season. Remember to hug your Labrador today.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu