Few events are as exciting as bringing home a new dog — and let’s be honest, no one is more excited than the kids! The next step is to get everyone on the same page when it comes to training. Although that probably sounds really boring to the youngsters, it’s important for them to be involved in the process. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get your kids involved in training without losing the fun, and here are a few to get you started.
Make training part of your routine
You probably already have a consistent routine with your kids, so why not tie in caring and training for your dog? As your kids come out for breakfast, have them help with your pup’s morning meal as well. One can work with him to sit and stay while another scoops out the proper amount of food. Give guidance as needed, but try to let them handle it as independently as possible. Potty training is an easy after-school task to maintain, and trips to the backyard can even be a rewarding way for both your dog and child to burn off some excess energy before homework and other responsibilities.
Stop the jumping early
It may seem adorable when an excited pup starts jumping up and down every time your child walks in, but it can lead to accidental injuries. Nip this behavior in the bud early, and make your child an active part of the training. Have sessions where the dog is on a leash with your child present. If the dog starts jumping, your child should cross her arms and turn around. Once the dog has regained his composure, your child can interact with him again. Be sure she repeats this behavior outside of training sessions — if she comes home from school and the dog won’t stop jumping, she needs to wait until he’s calmed down to give him a hello. It might be tough at first, but once your dog realizes he gets more attention by staying calm, he’ll learn to keep his cool!
Go on walks together
Walks are a great opportunity to teach your child how to maintain control over your dog. You should keep leash control until you know exactly how Fido responds to neighbors, joggers, and other animals on the street, but your little one can certainly learn by watching. You can also take the opportunity to have a few outdoor training sessions to teach your dog how to obey in public amid other distractions. When you’re confident your child is prepared, grant control of the leash but always stay close by until you’re both certain she can walk the dog without your supervision. Not sure she’s ready? Have practice walks around the yard and have her command the dog to heel, sit, and stay. Not only will you gain better insight into whether or not she can handle a solo walk, you’ll give her extra practice.
Play training games
Training doesn’t always have to be structured; in fact, you can reinforce important commands with games! Fetch can be an excellent way to work on “sit,” “retrieve,” and “drop it.” You can even add multiple balls to make it more high-energy and keep your pet on his toes! Create a training version of “Red Light, Green Light” by using words like “Come,” “Stop,” and “stay.” Both child and dog will be eager to play, and they won’t even realize they’re training!
Teach kids about warning signs
Sometimes, a dog just isn’t into the idea of training, and he’ll have his own ways of telling you. Talk to your kids about the warning signs of an uncomfortable dog, including:
- Tail straight up
- Showing the whites of eyes
- Growling, displaying teeth
- Hunched back
- Raised fur
Discuss the importance of respecting a dog that’s saying no and knowing when to give him his space. Remember, he may not have been in a home with kids before so he needs time to adjust.
Don’t forget to talk to your kids about how training goes when you’re not around — you can even create a goals chart as your dog meets new milestones. Keep your children involved from the start, and your dog will happily integrate into your family.
About the Author: Paige Johnson adopted her first dog in her early 20s. Today, she is the proud “mom” to three pups. With a little help from obedience classes, she has turned them all into well-trained four-legged friends, who often accompany her on her many fitness adventures, including regularly exploring local hiking trails. She enjoys writing about health, fitness, and pet care for LearnFit.org.