Who can resist a playful puppy? They are like little clowns in furry suits, entertaining us with their joyful antics. Fun for the whole family, until they start in with their sharp little teeth.
Kids seem to be magnets for these little teeth. Puppies, naturally, get super-excited when playing with the kids, due to their quick movements and high-pitched giggles. Often this will conclude with tears and a quick exit, and sometimes, children will want nothing to do with the puppy afterward.
Adults can help by incorporating training into playtime, effectively ‘playing with a purpose’. Start by teaching the pup the ‘Out’ command (you can use the word ‘drop’ if you prefer). Have your child hold a large plush toy, and offer it to the puppy, saying, “Take it”. Once the puppy has a good hold on the toy, say, “Out” and then present a tasty treat directly under the pup’s nose. The puppy will drop, or spit out, the toy and gobble the treat. As he does, pick up the toy. Do this several times until the puppy spits out the toy when you give the verbal cue, even before you can present the treat. Now we’ll use this in a game.
Get family members together on the floor in a circle. The puppy’s leash should be fastened to his collar. Children under 4 should be partnered with a parent or older sibling. An adult can hold the puppy’s leash, as the child across the circle holds the large plush toy. Have the child shake the toy and say, “Come!” The adult holding the leash should loosen the grip so the puppy can bound over to the toy. Allow the puppy to enjoy the toy for a moment, and then use that ‘Out’ command with the treat presented to get the toy back and start over. Everybody take turns, and then increase the size of the circle or take the game outdoors to give the puppy more running room.
This game has lots of benefits:
- a faster, more reliable ‘Come’ response
- interactive family time with the puppy
- children taking part in training
- kids and dogs thrive on a sense of accomplishment
Once you get good at this, start new games like hide and seek. Have the kids ‘hide’ a biscuit in an easy-to-find spot on the floor, like behind a chair leg. Allow the puppy to see them hiding the biscuit while being held back on the leash. Then, let the kids take the leash and help the pup ‘find’ the toy. This works well when inclement weather keeps you indoors.
You say your puppy is still wild at times in the house? Leash him up and set out for a walk. Bring the kids with you. You’ll be surprised at how much this fosters a bond between the puppy and all family members. New sights, smells and a little physical exercise will help chill the puppy out (and your kids) when you come back inside and want to veg in front of the TV.