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Which games you should and should not be playing with your dogs

I am quite often asked by clients which games they should and should not be playing with their dogs. I am asked whether playing chase games are contributing to their dog grabbing at their son's pant legs (it can). I am asked whether tug of war is a safe game to play with their dog (it absolutely can be, but is not the safest game choice for children).

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When children play with dogs, they are learning how to interact appropriately with others. They are developing empathy. They develop creativity and most of all they have fun.

But it is important to make sure that the games children play with dogs are contributing to the kind of relationship you are trying to foster, and not undermining it. Children's creativity can sometimes exceed the limits of a dog's patience and/or impulse control and some games quickly get out of control. Below are some games that I like to recommend to families with children.

1. Fetch. The most traditional of games, and one of the easiest for children to play with few risks. It is basically hands-off and children can even do some basic training (practice sits, downs, etc before throwing) with each game. Young children may need assistance to ensure that the dog drops the ball on cue and does not grab for the ball from a child's hand, but with practice older children can play this game pretty independently. A fun alternative to typical Fetch is throwing a Frisbee.

2. The Shell Game. A simple yet fun problem solving game. All you need are some treats and a few disposable plastic cups (or any opaque container open on one side). The premise is just like that of the traditional she'll game where you hide a treat in one of the upside-down cups, and mix it up with several empty identical cups, and let your dog sniff out the treat (or knock over the cups until found the rules are up to you!). It is guaranteed to provide fun and laughter.

3. Find It. Fun for all, and a great exercise outlet for dogs, the game starts out simple, but can get as challenging as you wish! Stuff a Kong (don't know what a Kong is? Click here!) with some of your dog's favorite treats. In the beginning, place the Kong within easy sight of your dog, tell him to "Find It", and praise him when he gets it the treats inside will provide the rest of the reward! After a few times of doing that, place it somewhere easy but not fully visible (under a blanket, under the edge of a chair, or in a pile of dog toys). As the dog gains experience and begin to learn the game you can begin to move to other rooms and have the dog search longer before finding it.

4. Teaching Tricks. One of the greatest ways to build a positive relationship with dogs is through training. Children as young as 3 or 4 years old (under parental guidance) can have dogs practice known behaviours and reward them. Older children can use their creative thinking skills and actually teach new and fun tricks to the family dog. The dog learns, the dog gets rewards, the kids have fun. It is a win-win situation.

5. Hide and Seek. This needs more than one person to play, but can be a lot of fun! Ask your dog to stay, or have someone hold him, and then have the children hide in different areas. When they are ready, the children can call the dog's name once, and the dog is let go to find the source of the sound. If the dog is havong trouble, children can call the dog again to help out. Once the dog finds the child, the child can present a favorite toy or treat for the dog to play with. This can be good exercise for both kids and dogs on a rainy day!

There are all sorts of games that children and dogs can safely play together. This list is just the beginning. There are lots of fun variations on the games as well (for instance play Find It with treat-filled Easter Eggs at Easter).

All children/dog interactions should be monitored by an adult at all times. Dogs and children can both get overexcited in play and don't always know when to take a break, and somebody may accidentally get hurt.

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Posted in Home Improvement Post Date 11/24/2016


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