There are an abundance of activities that kids and dogs can enjoy together. From organized and competitive events to backyard fun, you’re sure to be able to find something that both your child and your dog will enjoy.
Just for Fun
Give your kid a clicker (or teach her how to use a verbal CR, like “Yes!”)and a bag of treats, and start working on shaping tricks, like shake, roll over, speak, spin, back up, and crawl. Backyard obstacle courses can be purchased or made from household items to provide an opportunity for exercise and teamwork, not to mention fun. Nothing beats a good game of fetch for cooperative fun, but make sure your child isn’t snatching the ball from your dog, or prying it out of her mouth to get it, along with making sure your dog isn’t snatching the ball back from your child.
For extra impact, your child should have your dog sit and wait some of the time before the ball is thrown. Any rude behavior by your dog toward your child calls for an immediate end of the game for at least 20 minutes. In other words, your child should simply walk away if your dog displays any rude or pushy behavior like jumping, mouthing, or pawing. It doesn’t take most dogs long to figure out they’d better play nice if they want to play at all.
For the Real Dog Lover
Some kids have a natural affinity and ability with animals in general, and dogs in particular. They want to do and learn everything they can with their canine companions to have a great friendship and partnership. For the special kid that is really committed to the care and training of her own dog, look into organized activities in your area. Kids are welcome, and in fact, encouraged to train and compete in several performance events, including agility, rally, obedience, and conformation, in addition to junior handling in the American Kennel Club and other national and international kennel clubs.
There are several online resources for kids with dogs that are both fun and educational. The Web sites www.dogplay.com are designed to be kid friendly and are loaded with info about dogs, dog safety, training, and fun things for kids and dogs to do.
4-H Clubs are active in many communities, and many of them have dog-related activities, including obedience competitions and volunteer work with dogs. With their parents’ assistance, some kids even raise puppies for assistance-dog organizations or take their own trained therapy dogs on visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and other therapeutic venues.
Along with the responsibility of caring for a dog, a child learns a lot about grace under pressure, good sportsmanship, and civic responsibility from participating in organized activities with their dogs. It’s a win-win situation: a well-behaved dog and a responsible kid. What more could you ask for?