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Teach Your Child To Train The Dog

Many parents and pet owners don’t believe that a child can be effective in training a dog. But this is definitely possible, says Pete Grinstead from Pete’s Positive Pooch Training. “Kids will have great fun making the dog training interesting, challenging and rewarding at the same time – which is the best way to train your dog.”

Most people think of dog training in terms of “sessions” or “classes”, where they set aside some time each day for a few weeks. Once these sessions are complete, the dog is trained. Wrong. “I don’t think this is a very effective way to work with your dog. Instead, dog training is something that should happen all day, every day. Every interaction you and your children have with your dog is considered as training. Young dogs and kids are sponges that soak up information at an amazing rate. Few other animals watch us as much as dogs, so they are constantly learning,” says Pete. 

Dogs, like kids, need boundaries to understand what behaviour is and is not acceptable. Here’s how to teach your little ones to set the routine:

boy and dog

At what age should kids begin to help with dog training?

Pete: It depends on the individual dog and the child to some extent. I prefer to get children as young as five years old to be actively involved in the dog’s daily routine and slowly increase their responsibilities. Always supervise kids with dogs, particularly dogs that are new to the home, and kids who are new to dogs. 

How To Start?

P: A good away to start the routine is to get kids involved with the day-to-day interactions, such as feeding, walking, bathing and grooming. Feeding should be a ritual for your dog – done at the same times each day, done in the same way (or ways). For e.g. have the dog sit and wait while you prepare the food, and after placing the food down, release them to go eat. Young children (five to eight years old) can help to put the food in the dog bowls, while older kids can help to issue the release command.

What About Walking The Dog?

P: When out for walks, have the dog sit and put its head through the collar before clipping the leash on, then go through the door and have it sit while you open the door. You walk through, call the dog, and get it to sit again, then you close the door before releasing it from the sit/stay position to go on the walk. Polite dogs know what behaviour is acceptable and what isn’t. Again, get younger kids to assist. Older ones should be able to do the whole process on their own.

boy walking dog

Play Fetch!

P: Develop games that your kids can play with the dog. Fetch is often (but not always) the easy one. Start with two tennis balls, throw one and the dog should chase after it and grab it (sometimes this can take a bit of convincing). Call the dog back to you, and as it comes close, reach out and take the ball from its mouth, while saying drop and showing him the other ball. When it releases the ball from its mouth, give it lots of praise and then throw the second ball for him. Repeat, and eventually you will only need the one ball.

Play Hide And Seek

P: This is another great game for the kids to play with Fido. Have the child stand in the middle of the room with a treat and call Fido. When Fido comes, praise and give it the treat. Have Fido stay while kiddo moves to another room still in sight of Fido and repeat. Gradually make it harder by hiding behind doors or under the bed in rooms out of Fido’s sight. Have multiple kids around and start teaching Fido to find them by name.

This story was written by Pete Grinsted and first published in the August 2016 issue of Singapore’s Child. It’s been edited by Sylvia Ong for to be published on the web.