It’s so heartwarming to watch your dog and kids grow up together, the best of friends. Games between kids and dogs can be a great way to foster that relationship. When playing these fun games together, kids and dogs should be supervised.
NOTE: Don’t play these games if your dog is a resource guarder; instead contact a professional dog trainer that is knowledgeable about behavior.
Resource guarding is when the dog is uncomfortable with having his toys/food taken away or having a person approach the space the dog is in. If your dog stiffens or growls during these situations, back off and call a professional dog trainer. With proper training, resource guarding can be managed.
Some of these games might excite your dog too much, as might the enthusiasm of your children. It’s important to remember that when dogs play, it is very natural to nip and jump on their doggie friends. If your dog starts nipping at or knocking over your children, stop the play immediately and find a calmer game.
Here are some of my favorite games for your kids and dogs to play together!
Round Robin Recall
This game is fun for the whole family, and is a calmer game that can be played inside or out. Give each person playing the game a handful of yummy treats. Everyone sit down on the floor around the outside of your room (or in a circle outdoors) and practice calling the dog from one person to another. Be sure that only one person is calling at a time! When your dog comes, feed him/her a couple tasty treats! Bonus: your dog will get some solid recall training during the round robin recall!
Another relatively calm game, Find It works especially well indoors. The child can either tell the dog to stay or another family member can hold the dog. Have the child hide a treat somewhere close by, and go back to the dog. The kid can tell the dog to find it and encourage the pup if he or she struggles. Start easy, even letting the dog watch where the treat is placed, until he or she has a good idea of what Find It means.
Retrieve (2 Toy Game)
Done in a safe manner, retrieves can be a lot of fun and exercise for your dog and your child! Be sure you are in a safe unobstructed area, and never use sticks to retrieve! If your dog is especially driven to get the object, please be careful as your dog might scrape up the dew claw pads or even hurt him/herself as he/she dives for the object. For these dogs, placing a toy and allowing the dog to retrieve would be a better alternative, or even giving the dog the toy and letting him/her run around.
If your dog isn’t good about dropping the toy, you and your child can teach the dog the two toy game! Have 2 identical toys and toss one for the dog. When he or she comes back to you, entice the dog with your other toy and throw it as soon as the dog drops the first toy.
When the dog gets really good at dropping the toy, you can mix it up by cuing the dog to do a behavior before throwing the second toy, or encouraging the dog to tug! Please be sure it is safe for your dog to tug with your child. It can be a lot of fun for both parties, as long as the dog is appropriate with the child.
Tricks for Treats
Encourage the child to train the dog! This can be super simple, such as training the dog to sit or down, or the child can teach the dog some tricks! There are a couple great books out there about teaching tricks to dogs. Pick up one for your kid, give him or her a bunch of treats, and let the child train the dog!
Here are a couple good book ideas.
There are also a ton of YouTube videos on teaching tricks! Please search for trainers who use positive reinforcement methods!
Hide and Seek
This game is great for rainy or snowy days, and will help both your kid and dog get some exercise! Have the dog stay or have a family member hold the dog. The child can go hide and when he or she is ready, call the dog. The kid can reward the dog finding him or her with lots of petting and treats.
You likely have all sorts of stuff around your house that can be used to make an fun obstacle course for your dogs and kids! Get the creative juices flowing while your child finds safe objects for your dog to navigate. Circling a garbage can, jumping a low broom, crawling under a chair, sitting in a box, stepping up with two (or four!) paws on a stool, jumping through a hoola hoop, the possibilities are endless!
At Golden Paws Dog Training, we LOVE kids and we love fostering the child and dog relationship in a fun and safe way. Kids are always welcomed at training classes, and my own kids are often involved in the classes. We also are a big part of the 4-H Dog Training project, so there are tons of fun opportunities for kids! Please contact me if you are interested in 4-H Dog Training! We are passionate about helping dogs and kids grow their bond through fun games!
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the fun games that your kids and dogs can play together! Remember, always supervise your children during these games and be sure that neither party is getting too excited!