Good activities for toddlers and dogs are safe for both and build a fun relationship that teaches the dog to respect the child, while teaching the toddler how to be gentle to the dog.
All interactions between young children and dogs need adult supervision and are opportunities for you to help your child develop lifelong patterns of kindness to animals. Both child and dog are learning something every time they interact, and these activities will help ensure that what they are both learning is good.
Good games for toddler and dog together:
Take the Dog for a Safe Walk: With the dog on a leash, an adult holds the leash closer to the dog and the child holds the far end of the leash. Help your toddler hold the leash without pulling on it and have him praise the dog for walking nicely.
Go: Teach your dog “Go!” meaning to leave the room when you point and say “Go!” Next, have your toddler point and say “Go!” and teach your dog to obey him.
Off: Pretrain your dog the Off command, then do it with your toddler standing right in front of you and saying “Off” to the dog. If necessary, follow through with the leash to help the dog sit, so he learns to sit rather than jump on your toddler.
Hide and Seek: Have your toddler hide, then tell the dog to find him. Help your dog understand by “finding” the child with your dog on leash, then you reward the dog (don’t have the toddler reward him; we don’t want the dog getting pushy for treats with a young child).
Gentle Games: As in “Follow the Leader,” you do an action then your child copies you. Help your child if she needs help to get it right then let her know the dog likes that.
- Stroke the dog gently in the direction his fur grows.
- Walk toward the dog and stop a few feet away then say “Hi, Dog!”
- Pet the dog under the chin.
- Tell the dog he’s a good dog in a nice voice.
Training that helps life go more smoothly with a toddler and a dog:
Place: Teach your dog to automatically go to his bed or crate when your toddler does certain actions, like opening his toy box, sitting on the floor, getting in his high chair, etc.
Chill Out: With your dog on leash, have him sit or down while your toddler plays nearby. Reward the dog for remaining calmly in a sit or down. Calmly guide him back into a sit or down with the leash if he gets up. This way your dog learns that being calm while a toddler plays is rewardable.
Mine: Play this body blocking game in front of your toddler to teach your dog to sit and look up at you whenever you step in front of your child.
Remember, always supervise closely when your child and dog are together, no matter how good they are with each other. Playing these games will help your toddler and dog build a strong relationship and will make your life easier. Have fun!
by Melissa Fischer, PuppyHomeSchool.com