By Crazy Dog Staff
As many people continue to spend more time at home, they are looking for ways to add fun and variety to their routine. They are taking up a variety new activities they can all enjoy together, from bake-offs and backyard camping to tie-dyeing and…training the dog.
Training the dog—a family activity? Granted, this is not typically regarded as a family endeavor; usually, one person takes the dog to an obedience class or assumes responsibility for teaching basic cues. However, family-style dog training can be fun and rewarding, and there are benefits to having all household members participate in Fido’s schooling, even kids as young as 4 or 5.
Why It Is a Good Idea
When the whole family trains a dog, he is taught to obey everyone in his immediate surroundings, not just one person who has been primarily working with him. Another benefit of family training is that it gets everyone on the same page about what types of behavior are and are not acceptable. This consistency makes the entire training process run smoothly. For example, if one owner or sibling scolds the pup whenever she jumps on the couch, and another rubs her belly or gives her food (image right), she is going to wind up confused and less likely to obey cues in general.
Along with creating a better-behaved dog, the group approach to training offers benefits to human family members. Kids who have hands-on involvement in training learn to take responsibility for their pets and develop new skills that will boost their confidence, which can be valuable in other areas of life. Young and older family members alike will enjoy strengthening their bond not only with their furry friends but also with each other.
Professional dog trainers can do their clients an excellent service by showing them how to involve the whole family in the training process. The trainer can demonstrate how even pre-school aged children can be taught training skills, and can recommend that families include everyone in their pet’s daily care regimen by assigning age-appropriate tasks to each member (filling the water bowl, etc.). She can suggest that families agree on guidelines about the types of behaviors that are off-limits, such as jumping on the furniture or begging at the table. Trainers should also make sure to stress to owners that they should never leave a child under ten alone with a dog.
Start With the Basics
Under adult supervision, kids can learn how to teach basic dog cues through positive reinforcement. With their parents’ assistance—and some tasty treats—kids can train their dogs to perform useful behaviors such as Sit, Lie Down and Stay. Owners should make sure the motor and cognitive skills involved in teaching any cue are age appropriate. Most kids become enthralled by the magic of dog training—of being able to “talk” to their dog and have him understand and respond to their requests.
Once a dog has learned basic cues, there are games the family can play to reinforce the training. Hide-n-seek is a game kids love and is perfect for strengthening a dog’s recall. Most dogs will enjoy playfully searching for and finding for a family member, especially when there are tasty treats as a reward for doing so. And kids will like getting creative in their choice of hiding places—under beds, behind closet garments, in the bathtub, etc.
Family Circle is another fun recall game. Family members get in a circle and one of them tells their dog to Sit and Stay in the center. One person says the dog’s name and then the cue “Come.” When the dog goes over to her, she rewards him. The other family members then take turns repeating the process. This game is great for outdoors, allowing the distance and configuration of family members to be increased and changed, making it more difficult for the dog to locate the caller. Family Circle teaches a dog to turn away from something he finds pleasurable (in this case, someone who is just given him a tasty treat) and go to whomever is calling him. This obedience skill is extremely valuable in real-life situations.
Use High-value Rewards
The key to successful training, for kids and adults alike, is having mouthwatering treats that will motivate a dog to perform the desired behaviors. Our Crazy Dog Train-Me! Mini Training Rewards are used and recommended by leading professional trainers nationwide because they have an aroma and flavor that canines find irresistible. Available in Bacon, Beef and Chicken flavors, the treats help speed up the training process because dogs will happily learn cues to get such delicious rewards.