Your Children and the Family Dog Playing Together

My kids like to play with our dog, but he gets a little too aggressive and the kids get scared.  What can I do?

We all want our kids to have a great experience with the family dog.  That is one of the “great family experiences” that follow all of us from being kids ourselves to being parents.  The trick is to balance the freedom and exuberance with safety and well-being.  We don’t want to completely hinder the play.  We also don’t want to have the kids scared whenever they see the dog.  Here are some tips that you should consider:
  • If your kids are under the age of eight, there should always be an adult supervising the play activity or any activity between the kids and your family dog.
  • Never “play rough” in the house.  Kids playing rough with the dog is never a good idea and we don’t want to introduce rough play and crazy canine excitement as the norm inside the house.
  • Have your dog on a leash when he is playing with the kids.  This allows you to easily separate them if you feel anything is getting out of hand.
  • Teach your kids not to push and poke the dog as a part of playtime.  This quickly heightens adrenaline and emulates a “tag, you’re it” environment.  Your dog will respond by nipping and jumping.  This is normally a frightening experience for the kids.
  • Never play “tug-of-war”.  Your kids’ hands will get too close to your dog’s mouth.  As your dog tries to reacquire the “tug-of-war”, he might mistakenly bit your kid.  Again, this is not a good experience for your child.
  • Play games like “chase the ball”.  Get four or five tennis balls and have your kids throw one out for your dog.  As he gets the first ball, throw the second and have your dog chase after the second.  Continue this process while you are picking up the discarded tennis balls and throw them.
  • Hide toys and goodies around the yard and then have the kids encourage your dog (by pointing and calling him) to find them.  Praise him when he does.
  • Practice obedience commands with your dog.  Have the kids call him to them with the “come” command.  Walk him on a leash in a circle around the yard.  Teach him to sit.

Tell your kids that if they ever feel afraid while playing with your family dog, stop what they are doing immediately and slowly stand up.  Stand still for about 30 seconds.  You can tell them that you want them to play like they are pretending to be a statue.  After that, slowly back up until they are away from your dog. 

During this time, you should also intervene, if you feel that it is necessary.  If your child can complete this by themselves, it will help build their confidence around dogs and minimize any potential of “fear of dogs” in the future. 

Our goal is to have a great time as a family and to instill a love of dogs in our kids.  Try some of these techniques and I am sure that you will experience some great results.  As always, please contact us if you have any questions at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.


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