Helping Your Kids and Puppy Bond
Your kids need help from you to figure out how to play with your puppy and teach her in appropriate ways. Teach your kids the interaction catchphrases they can put into practice, good games they can play with the puppy, and ways they can help you with training.
Using positive catchphrases
You want your kids to interact with the puppy in ways that help them bond and that earn them her respect. Explaining the following catchphrases to your kids and using them when you want to remind of them of appropriate behavior can be very helpful:
*“Four paw rule”: This catchphrase helps the kids remember not to pet Roxy until all four paws are planted on the floor. And this catchphrase sounds a lot better than “Stop calling the dog on the couch.”
“It looks like rain”: When the kids enter the home (after school, for example), have them “look for rain” until your puppy calms down — that is, tell them to cross their arms in front of their body and look to the sky.
You can also have your kids look for rain when the pup jumps into their laps for attention. This body language communicates calmly that jumping is an ineffective way to interact.
If your puppy is just too big for the “it looks like rain” technique to be effective, use a drag leash and consider putting your dog on a head collar. Either step on the end of the leash or pick the lead up and bring your puppy down.Credit: Illustration by Barbara FrakeKids should “look for rain” until the puppy calms down.
“Obsession toy”: Place a basket of toys by the door and encourage your children to give the puppy a toy as they come in the door so she has an appropriate outlet for her excitement.
“Kisses”: Rub a frozen stick of butter or peanut butter on the back of the kids’ hands, have them extend their hands, and together instruct, “Kisses.” The trick not only teaches your puppy to kiss a hand that reaches toward her, but it also discourages nipping.
Playing games with your puppy
When encouraging your kids to play with your puppy, choose games that focus on an object, teaching your puppy to play with your kids, not jump at them or challenge their interactions.
One good way to teach your puppy and kids how to put a halt to a variety of problem situations is with the game freeze dance. (This game is appropriate for kids older than age 7.) Gather your family, place the puppy on a drag lead, and get a treat cup. Play some music. When it’s playing, everyone should hop around and dance.
Have someone pause the music occasionally, and when the music stops, shout “Freeze,” step on the leash, and wait for the puppy to quiet down. Then shake the cup and reward her. Play this game until you’re able to calm your puppy down within seconds with the word “Freeze,” and then encourage the children to shake the cup and reward your puppy. If your puppy gets too wild or mouthy, consider using a head collar and practice short dance sequences.
No tug of war! Your puppy must learn that when hands are touching an object, teeth let go. Tug of war can lead to serious consequences because your puppy may not be able to distinguish between a stuffed toy or leash and an item of clothing. To discourage your pup from playing tug of war, have your kids exchange treats or toys for the item the puppy has or teach them the command “Give.”