This article is written by VK9 co-owner Justin Pishner. DIY-extraordinaire and the handiest handy man alive!

We are a working dog home. Some days, no matter how much fun our pups have, they still have more energy than hours in the day.

A few years ago, I designed a simple pulley system that incorporated Havok’s favorite rope toy to be able to gain a mechanical advantage while playing with the pups. It turned out that they loved it! Playing tug with an Aussie is no issue, but when you have a 90-pound German Shepherd on the other end it becomes a work out for both ends of the rope. With a two-pulley system I can pull Havok with half to a third of the effort (depending on how the pulley system is set up) so I am only pulling 30-45 pounds rather than all 90. Not only is it easier to use but also provides the opportunity for the dog to put all of his weight into it and be partially suspended at times, as the pulley system is hung from a tree or other overhead sturdy object. This builds upper body strength and neck strength.


  • 30’ climbing rope
  • (2) climbing rope pulleys
  • (1) Rope tug
  • (2) 12” bungee cords
  • (3) Carabiners
  • 2’ climbing tape or rope


  1. Start with your tug rope and 2’ climbing tape or rope. Tie a fixed loop (bowline) at the end of the tape and feed the running end through the loop to create a cinch to tighten around tug rope.
  2. Tie another fixed loop about 6” above rope toy. This is the attach to the bungee cords.
  3. Tie one more fixed loop at the end of the tape to attach to the carabiner/pulley. What you want is to have slack in the tape to provide shock relief from the bungee cords when the dog puts his weight into it. (see picture below)
  4. Tie a bowline in one end of the climbing rope. This will be your anchor point to your tree or other sturdy device. If using a tree, you can use climbing tape or similar material to tie a simple loop using a square knot around the branch to connect your carabiner to. In the picture below I am using a structural beam with J lag bolts. Eye bolts would be a better choice. This is for reference only, as a dirt or grass surface is preferred.
  5. Add pulley to rope and attach tug portion.
  6. Add second pulley and carabiner to a second anchor point.
  7. I like to tie a few overhand knots in the running end of the rope to prevent the rope from being pulled through the pulley and to assist with gripping the rope.

rope toy pulley system

rope toy pulley for dogs rope pulley dogs


  • Ensure dog has a solid bite (on rear teeth) before applying pressure.
  • Never lift your dog more than a couple inches from the ground and use a soft surface.
  • Ensure there is nothing close by the dog can run into.
  • Do not allow young puppies to come off ground.
  • Always warm-up and stretch out your dog prior to tug play.
  • Always cool down your dog and stretch out again after tug play.

Having an alternative workout for your dog is a great way to burn energy and give your dog mental stimulation. The challenge of a new toy will be exciting for your dog, and it’ll give you and your dog an additional bonding activity together. Keep your sessions short and always consider safety as a top priority throughout the exercise.

rope toy pulley system