All dog trainers are well-aware of the importance of consistency. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges when it comes to training a family dog is ensuring the kids don’t accidentally derail your teachings — after all, their focus is more about playing with the dog than teaching him. One of the best ways to avoid this issue is to get the children actively involved in the puppy dog training. Not sure how? Here are a few ideas to get you started on dog training for kids.
How To Involve Your Child With Dog Training:
Start with basic etiquette
No matter how much experience a child has with dogs, it never hurts to go over the basic rules of how to interact with one. Talk about how to approach a dog: never while it’s sleeping, cautiously when it’s eating or chewing a toy, and always in a calm manner. Show them the proper way to pet and show affection, and explain how direct eye contact and too much attention can come off as aggression.
When your child does something they shouldn’t (tug at the dog’s tail, take their toy away, yell at a very high pitch, and so on) make sure not to overreact, as that will send the wrong signal to both the dog and the child.
Stay calm, demonstrate what the proper etiquette is, and praise both the child and the puppy when they get it right. Give the puppy a treat, and speak to your child about the importance of treating the puppy with kindness and care repeatedly, as they may forget themselves in the heat of a game.
Teach kids to “be a tree”
Perhaps the most difficult lesson you’ll have to teach the kids in puppy dog training is the proper way to reject bad behavior from the dog, so teach this one early! Tell them that when Fido isn’t doing what he’s supposed to, they should be a tree:
- Stand straight and tall
- Branches — or arms — folded in front
- Eyes on roots (feet)
- Still and calm
Let them know that while it may seem “mean” to ignore the playful pup in front of them, it’s important for him to learn manners. He also needs to respect the child as an authority figure — if they never truly enforce a command, the dog will never obey them.
Teach them some basic commands
There are certain commands both your puppy and your child should learn as soon as possible. By involving them both in the learning process very early on, you will ensure that the dog obeys your child, and that your child is confident knowing they are able to control the dog’s actions in certain situations. This will become increasingly important as the dog grows older, and bigger.
Bring your child along to puppy dog training sessions, and practice at home as well. Start with sitting and heeling, as these two commands will be used often, and also set the stage for further work.
Put them in charge of caregiving responsibilities
Sometimes it’s best to start small when it comes to puppy dog training. Talk to their parents about giving them some routine caregiving tasks like feeding and brushing. They can work with the dog to patiently sit and wait for his food, or to calm down enough for a nice grooming. It’s a great way to get younger kids — who may not be old enough to truly train — involved and visible as authoritative. It also gives them the satisfaction of having responsibility over the dog. Be sure to discuss the importance of always giving the proper amount of food and resisting the temptation to give him snacks. To kids, giving food to a dog is a sign of affection, so be sure to clarify that it’s important for his health that he doesn’t get overweight.
Make the puppy a part of everyday play
Both your kids and the puppy may go through some initial shyness and discomfort when they are first introduced. In order to overcome it as quickly as possible, make sure the puppy is made a part of your everyday activities as a family.
Not only should you encourage your child to feed or brush the puppy, take them all along on a family walk or a playing session in the puppy park. Invent games that all of you can play as a family. For example, catch or tug of war are a great place to start. Encourage your children to spend as much time with the dog as possible, to nurture the bond between them.
Maintain control during training sessions
If a child is present during a training session, don’t be afraid to set limits as you need to. You can politely, yet firmly, ask kids for what you need. If a child won’t stop making distracting noises, for example, calmly ask them to stop. Then let them know it’s important for the dog to focus. It may even help to give them a designated task — like getting the dog treats ready. You need the right environment in order for the puppy dog training to be effective. It’s important for the kids to respect that.
Getting kids involved in the training process is a great way to reinforce a dog’s training. Be sure to discuss the child’s role ahead of time so you can create a plan together. With the proper techniques and persistence, you may even inspire a young trainer-to-be! Do you have a puppy dog yet? They make a great addition to the family.