Your child can teach his dog new tricks — with a little help from you. Spending time training a dog deepens the bond between your child and the family dog, and successful training builds confidence.
“I’ve seen kids as young as 20 months doing a great job training dogs, with the direct help and coaching of an adult,” says Jonathan P. Klein, CDBC, CPDT-KA, Dog Trainer & Behavior Consultant. “No kid under seven or eight, maybe even older, should be left alone with the dog and probably will still need supervision and coaching to train.”
Here are 10 tricks your child can teach his dog:
1. Your dog’s name: Each time you greet your dog, look at him and say his name. Repeat his name several times. Each time he comes to you when you call his name, give him a treat.
2. Sit: Have your child hold a small treat in his hand just above the dog’s nose. Gently rest his other hand on your dog’s rump. Move the treat upwards slowly, and as your child is doing this, softly press down on the dog’s rump. Repeat the word “sit.” When your dog sits, say “good dog,” and give him the treat. Repeat five times, and again later in the week.
3. Stay: Start this exercise by having your dog sit, then say “stay” and walk backward just a few feet. If your dog moves, have him sit again and repeat. When he sits for just a few seconds, praise him and give him a small treat. Repeat and extend the “stay” time from a few seconds to 30 seconds. As you extend the time, move a few more feet away. Extend the time to a minute, and then to five minutes. All new tricks take time, repetition, and patience.
4. Come: Walk a few feet away from your dog and call “come.” Add his name. Sound happy, and when he comes to you, praise him. After repeating this a few times, give him a treat every third time he comes to you. Make sure you always praise him. Dogs love treats, but they love your positive attention even more.
5. Shake hands: From the sitting position, lift your dog’s paw in your hand and say “shake.” When he does this praise him, and give him a treat. Repeat five to seven times. Then put your hand out without taking his paw, and say “shake.” When he puts his hand into yours, give him a small treat and tell him he’s the best dog ever.
6. Find it: Have your child hide a treat, and then have your dog find it. A dog’s sense of smell is between 1,000 and 10 million times more sensitive than ours (depending on the breed). Start out by hiding the treat in plain sight. Then hide it further away. It is fun to watch your dog find the treat.
7. Down: Most people don’t like it when a dog jumps up on them. Each time your dog jumps up on you, say “down” firmly. If he doesn’t listen, turn your back to him. Then turn around and repeat.
8. Heel: If your child is old enough to walk the family dog on his own, show him how to teach the dog to heel. No one wants to be pulled by an unruly dog. Put the collar on your dog. Hold the leash close to your side, and say “heel.” Walk slowly and each time your dog stays close to your side continuing saying “heel” and “good dog.”
9. Hush: If your dog is a barker, watch him while he’s barking. When he looks at you and gets quiet — even for a second — give him a treat and tell him he is a good dog. Repeat several times, and add “hush.” When he stops barking give him a treat.
10. Get the leash: Place your dog’s leash on the floor next to him, and say “take leash.” When he puts it in his mouth, praise him. Then walk toward the door, and say “come.” Repeat several times. Reward him by taking him for a walk.
What tricks has your kid taught your dog?