Dog Days of Summer

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The dog days of summer are in full swing. The pools are filled, ice cream trucks circle the neighborhoods and the beach is calling our names. With the children home from school, how can a family use this time to improve bonding and obedience with the family dog? This month, we focus on games to play with your dog as a family. All these games can be increased or decreased in difficulty based on the experience of the family or the dog.

Hide and Seek – A classic children’s game, Hide and Seek can be used for all levels of play and training with your dog. Have your older child hide in the house, or in the backyard, with a few treats. Then have the child begin calling the dog by name. Once the dog reaches the child, they can give treats and praise. A younger child should hide with an adult and have the adult assist in feeding the treats. This game helps build a bond with your children AND helps teach / reinforce your dog to come when called.

Nosework Games – Simple nosework games can be thrilling for both your children and your dog. The simplest games can use your dog’s kibble hidden in places around your home or outdoors. The game can be elevated by hiding treats inside a toy and then hiding the toy. Children really enjoy the hiding part and often like to help the dog during the hunt. This game is fun, but also gives your dog the opportunity to practice physical and mental exercises and these reduce behavioral issues! As a side note, this game should not be played with dogs who exhibit any possessive issues with food or toys. If you have that issue, call us and we can discuss some resource guarding options.

Tricks – Tricks can be just about anything that your dog and children find fun and simple. The key is that the tricks are easy so the results are fast. Try shake, high five, nose touches, roll over, or BANG. Because tricks usually chain a series of behaviors together, they are GREAT at improving communication and obedience. They’re also pretty easy to teach and a lot of fun to show off to guests. Use a clicker to train new tricks and watch how quickly your dog learns and becomes a much better listener to your children and family.

Fetch – An old favorite, fetch is a great game to play with dogs that are natural retrievers. The game can be used to both exercise the dog and practice obedience. Toss the ball or toy for your dog to bring back. Before you toss it again, ask your dog to perform an obedience command such as sit or down. Include your whole family in this game and you can look forward to your pup snoozing at your feet in the evening.

Puppy Ping Pong – There are few things as thrilling in dog training as when a client shares how their dog got loose and they were able to call the dog back and avoid a possible tragedy. Puppy Ping Pong is fun for younger children and reinforces your dog running to you as fast as they can move. Have your child or family member sit down in a chair, or on the floor, with a few treats. Then, walk about ten feet away and hold your dog gently by the collar. Have your family member call the dog and let him run to them while they give a treat or two. Then, you call the dog to you and feed him a treat or two. Each person calls the dog and treats them while the pup pings and pongs from person to person. Add distance and people for a bigger challenge. NOTE – only one person should call the dog at a time.

We hope you enjoy these ideas. Make sure to keep the games fun and you will be surprised at how exciting and useful they can be. Interested in a full games or trick class? Our Summer Quarter of classes is online and we have a 4 week games and a 4 week tricks offering available. Or, if you prefer, we can work on these with private lessons or as part of a board and train program while you’re on vacation.

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K-9 Coach