Are your kids and dogs bouncing off the walls? Is your dog getting their daily exercise requirements? Wouldn’t it be great to have some go-to activities that would keep them both occupied while burning off some excess energy?
This article will explore three fun and easy to train games your dog and your kids will enjoy playing together.
This game is so easy that even very young children (if supervised) can train the family pet to come when called. It is also a game that can be played indoors on a rainy day so that both the children and the canine get tuckered out.
Here is how it goes:
- Give each child a small bag of treats cut into small pieces and have them sit in a wide circle on the floor.
- Have them take turns calling the dog with whatever command you like to use.
- Every time the doggie goes to the right child, they get a treat from the pouch and some praise.
- Add to the challenge by expanding the territory, having the kids call from separate rooms, or taking the game outside on a sunny day.
- Keep it fun. Let the kids carry on and play so that your dog will enjoy it just as much as they do!
Children 9 and up are old enough to learn the basics of clicker training. This is a skillset that can give your kid a lifetime of enjoyment working with dogs and other animals.
This trick is a good one to try with the clicker for the first time. However, if you don’t have a clicker, no worries. Just agree on a sound that you and your family will use to “mark” the behavior you want to reward. In this article we will use the words click/treat…but just substitute your marker word for the click if necessary.
You may need to assist your youngster to teach this trick. However, once your dog knows it then it will become a game they can play without help to give them both a fun activity for indoors or out.
Here is how to train it:
- Arm your youngster with a bag of treats or kibble your dog really enjoys, the clicker (if applicable), and a sticky note.
- Have the child hold out the sticky note and make a deal out of it until the dog comes to investigate with their nose, click/treat.
- Repeat the above step, moving the note into different positions and click/treating every time the dog puts a nose to the sticky.
- Once the dog is nosing the sticky note reliably, add the command “Target!” right before they hit their nose to the note. Continue to click/treat for successful nose touches.
- Start trying to stick the note to the furniture or on the wall very close by and give the command. Wait for the nose and click/treat.
- Over time, increase the distance your child sends the dog away to the target. Eventually your pet will gladly run across the room to the target and then back for a treat. Your child will have fun finding fun spots to send the dog away to!
If you happen to have a kid, a dog and a fenced-in yard, then fetch is a must have trick to have on tap. It can give kids an entertaining game while wearing out your rambunctious dog at the same time. It is pretty easy to teach. Once your dog knows it, it is a game suited for children of most any age.
To teach fetch:
- Give your child a soft, dog-proof toy and a bag of treats.
- Have the child toss the toy within a few feet away after making a big deal about how cool that toy really is. Just ignore the dog and keep trying the toss until the dog gets interested enough to pick up the toy. Click/treat.
- After the dog is reliably picking up the toy, raise the bar until they are bringing it back before they get a click/treat. If need be, click/treat for anything in between a full retrieve and a pick up as an intermediary step.
- Increase distance and switch to a ball once the dog seems to “get it.” Continue to click/treat.
- Once your dog knows this trick indoors, go to a secured outdoor location for a fun game that will provide hours of fun.
Training Pro Tips
We hope this article has inspired you to teach your dog games they can play with the kids, or better yet, have the kids teach them! Before we go, we want to leave you with a few tips to help you with this or any other training activities with your dog:
- Keep training sessions short and fun.
- Never punish your dog during training. Just ignore unwanted behavior and reward the behavior you are looking for.
- If you are using a clicker, always give a treat after the click (or your chosen marker word) even if you messed up the timing.
- Train new tricks in a familiar environment and add distractions such as working outside only after they have mastered the basics of a new behavior.
Remember to have fun with your dog. If you are not enjoying a training session, neither are they!
Mat Coulton has worked with dogs for just under a decade and is the founder of WileyPup, a pup lover’s website that provides great tips and advice for pet parents everywhere.