Family Teamwork: Getting Kids Involved In Dog Training
Many clients that I work with have families, or might be starting one very soon. The latter, often is signing up for my expecting parents training program, Cribs and Canines, so that their dog is well-prepared to accept and behave around a new baby in the home. I also have clients with children, ranging at different ages, from infant, toddler, to even teenager. For kids very young where they are still working on their own communication skills, or are still very small and not strong enough to handle a dog (of varying sizes and temperaments), training a dog might not be a task that they are ready for. But for those that are capable and willing, it can be extremely beneficial for the dog’s overall training, plus the child learns to be a leader for the dog.
To be clear, if there are any doubts on the child’s safety being involved with dog training, then I do not recommend they participate, particularly early on in the training when the dog is getting acclimated. For example, if we’re working with a dog that bites aggressively, I would not want a child handling the dog until MAYBE the dog improves, even if the dog is wearing a muzzle. Not only is it an issue of safety, but if the dog misbehaves, especially severely, and the child is not fully aware or capable of handling the dog, we may end up reinforcing the bad behavior accidentally. Training involves good timing and diligence, and if the child is too ambitious or just not going to commit to the task, then it is best for the sake of the child and dog that they hold off on the training for some time. Kids might be intimidated by the training, feeling insecure that they cannot pull it off. There’s no need to force them, but rather gradually get them involved with some small, basic exercises that they and the dog can succeed in. Once confidence is reached, their handling will improve immensely, and the dog will respond better.
Like dogs, children need guidance, and if you work with them and communicate with them on the dog training techniques, they should learn and pick it up in no time. The child should work at their own pace, but also stay consistent. One of the best things about getting the kids involved with the dog training is that is maintains the consistency of the training structure and boundaries that we are setting for the dog. The dog will learn to follow through and obey your command, but ALSO your kids. Many dogs see the younger family members as being on their level, and sometimes will take advantage of it. This happens because kids normally don’t take an authoritative role with the dogs. But in many cases it is better if they do, and in some cases, it is necessary that the dog see the kids as leaders, alongside with the parents.
Dog training is also a great way for a child to build leadership within themselves. Dog training is all about being a leader for your dog, and the child will have to demonstrate this same leadership. No longer will they get picked on by the dog, just because they’re small and the dog sees them solely as a playmate that they can toy around with. It teaches both the dog and child how to abide by fair boundaries, and for the child to administer them for the dog. It teaches them that practice CAN make perfect, that positive reinforcement is a great way to teach, while also showing that there are limitations in life.
If you have young ones that are interested in being part of your dog’s behavioral progress, then encourage it! I work with families and their children who wish to participate. If a child is not interested, I do not force the issue, as it requires commitment. But if you and your child wish to move forward with your dog’s behavior training, then call me at 800-649-7297 and we’ll set everyone up for success!