Teaching good manners to your dog is not just something to be left up to the adults of the house. Training needs to include the children in the process. Your dog needs to know that it must respond and behave politely for all members of the family. Giving the kids the opportunity to really help with their dog’s education, can be a wonderful learning experience for them. Being involved in training a dog can teach children patience and compassion and succeeding at the task, will promote positive self-esteem.
Dogs don’t generally view children as authority figures, so any training techniques that rely on physical corrections tend to backfire when kids try to pursue them. Children are usually more successful using reward-based training techniques, such as lure-and-reward or clicker training methods. This works better for everyone, because most dogs tend to work hard to earn treats, toys and other enjoyable rewards.
Any family member can take part in training, feeding and grooming your dog – just make sure they’re up to the job. Most children younger than ten (and some older kids, as well) need ongoing supervision and parental support to keep them on track.
Don’t expect more involvement than your child is mature enough to give and remember to check daily that their jobs have been done – your pet’s safety and comfort are at stake. Yes, children need to learn responsibility, but this should never come at the expense of an animal’s welfare.
It’s usually best for an adult to start the dog on any new lesson before adding young co-trainers. That way the dog has a general idea of what to do and the children won’t be starting from scratch. Training will go more smoothly this way and the kids will experience less frustration and greater success.
To get kids involved in your dog’s training, first let them watch you working with the dog, then show them how to do it themselves. Stand by, at least in the beginning, to coach and support and to get the lesson back on track, if necessary.
Some children actually turn out to be better trainers than many adults. If your child is one of these marvels, celebrate this success by allowing him or her to take on more of the training and teach the dog new tricks and tasks. Many positive dog trainers now encourage children to fully participate in their obedience classes, so check around – there may be one that you, your dog and your kids can attend together.