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​Children & Dog Training: Make Training Fun, Not A Chore

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Children & Dog Training: Make Training Fun, Not A Chore

To help your children become involved in training the family puppy, make it fun rather than a chore. One way to do this is to turn it into a game.

“Gentle, interactive games build the bond, trust and respect that is desirable between child and puppy,” says Thomas Morningstar, professional dog trainer and owner of Sunshine Dog Training School in Toronto, Canada. Thomas provides some Dos and Don'ts for how kids should play with a puppy:


- Come

- Fetch

- Give


- Jump

- Chase

- Tug-of-War

Most professional dog trainers, like Thomas, will concur that you, as the adult, should teach your puppy the rules of the game first, before involving your kids. “One of the first games every family puppy should learn is give,” he says. “Your puppy should learn to give objects [a ball, chew toy or your daughter's Barbie] willingly with a simple verbal release cue, such as 'give' or 'drop it.'”

The give command, in Mr. Morningstar's opinion, “is best taught through trade-me games, where you offer a toy or treat more desirable to the puppy than the one it is holding. The point is to get the puppy to relinquish its prize happily,” he explains.

After your puppy masters this skill, tug-of-war can be considered “for older children [12 and older], but the game should still be overseen by an adult or responsible teen who can intervene if either the kids or the pup gets too rough,” Thomas advises.

As you well know, puppies are motivated by food, so use this to your advantage! Don't think of it as bribing, but rather as positive reinforcement (along with lots of verbal praise and cuddles).

Encourage your children to practice the puppy's sit, come, stay and leave it lessons with treats. Treats should be soft, small and easy to eat, such as bits of cheese or hot dogs. Crunchy biscuits are usually too large – and filled with too many calories – for the repetitiveness of training.

When teaching sit, hold the food morsel just above the puppy's nose, then slowly move it backward until the puppy gets into the desired position as you say the cue word (“sit”). Likewise, to teach the down, draw the treat slowly toward the ground from the sit position; for heel, hold it at your thigh as you walk.

Give your puppy the reward as you praise it (“Good boy, Sparky!”). Once your puppy starts getting the hang of it, decrease the frequency of treats to, say, every third time it performs the desired action. Food isn't the only motivator, however. You can also use a favorite toy along with lots and lots of praise. Eventually, with patience and practice on your part, your pup will learn to sit on command.


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