Sometimes the biggest challenge in dog training can be preventing a well-meaning family member from sabotaging the process. In some respects, teaching people how to train their dog is the equivalent of asking them to be the student and the teacher at the same time.
And because consistency is key with dog training, it gets even more complicated when there are several people in the household. That’s why it’s important to include the children (and your spouse, for that matter) in every step of the process and to make sure everyone is following the rules in regard to training.
Let Them Be Involved
I once had a student who wouldn’t let her kids near her puppy that would be competing in obedience. The children weren’t even allowed to talk to the dog because she didn’t want them to “mess up the training.” Personally, I found that including my kids in the training process brought us closer together as a family. A child as young as 5 years old could understand how to ask a dog to sit before giving them a treat. And since you’re never leaving your young kids and dogs alone together without parental supervision, you’ll be able to help him follow through on training properly.
Turn Your Back on Jumping
Teach everyone in the house and regular visitors that when they approach your dog while they’re in a pen or behind a gate and they jump up, they are to turn their backs to him. After the dog has settled down, they can turn around and see what their choice is. If they sit, the kids can give him a treat. If not, repeat the process. Also, by having your kids teach this technique to guests, they will see how challenging it is to convince other people to follow directions.
Give Kids Their Own Commands
Kids can be unpredictable and inconsistent, and it’s difficult to retrain a word after a dog has confused its meaning. That’s why I give my kids different words to train the dog. My dogs learn to come to me on the word “here,” and they learn to stay on the word “wait.” But I told my kids that they were going to train the words “come” and “stay.” That way, the dog wouldn’t use my words and would focus on theirs instead.
Teach Children How to Use Treats and Praise
It’s important that kids learn how to teach their dog that they are just as exciting as a treat. I remember having this conversation with my son when he was little. He said that the puppy only wanted to be around him when he was holding dog treats. I told him that I was going to let him in on a really important dog training secret: In order to make this puppy want him as much as the cookie, he had to teach him to do something in order to get the cookie. So waiting for them to sit and then giving him a cookie (or opening a door or throwing a ball) made him just as valuable to the puppy because suddenly he was the gatekeeper of everything the puppy wants.
Get Kids Involved In Junior Showmanship
Does your child show a particular interest in training the family dog? They’ll likely love getting involved with Junior Showmanship, also known as Junior Handling. In the program children from 9 to 18 years old will learn basic handling abilities, and how to care for, and present, different breeds in conformation. Juniors are judged based on the quality of their presentation, rather than the breed standard of the dog.
Juniors can also participate in other dog sports, such as Agility, Obedience, Rally, Tracking, and many more. The experience can help build confidence, create a lifelong appreciation for dogs and specific breeds, and could even lead to a possible career path!
The AKC Gazette is the official journal of the sport of purebred dogs, and hasn’t missed an issue since 1889. Read the current AKC Gazette issue, sign up to receive new issues via e-mail, and browse 10 years of back issues on AKC.org.