The Training Toolbox for Kids & Dogs

Today the kids attended a neighbor’s super cute birthday party with a builder theme.

The party favors included this cheap (under a dollar!) and easy item that can be used as a treat holder for dry or semi-moist treats – the Home Depot canvas work apron.

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Talking to the kids about their Training Toolbox is a fun metaphor to teach them different tools they can use for effective dog training.  What are those tools?  Their body, their voice, their hands, a clicker, a reward like a treat or toy, and most importantly, their brains!

I’ve explained to the boy here how to teach Ranger to be patient and wait for his treat.  This is an excellent first exercise to establish between the two so that Ranger is rewarded for waiting patiently until he is given the treat instead of thinking he needs to reach out and grab.

As you will see, Ranger is also tethered for this. Big, bouncy dogs can be scary for children who are half their size, and a tether is a good safety measure so that if Ranger does get super excited and rompy, the boy can literally take one step back and be out of the “bounce zone”.  We are also starting off in the down position to help stabilize the Labrador.

In addition, we are not using a clicker this time because I want the focus to be on the timing of withdrawing and offering the treat; clicking would add to the difficulty without much payoff since we are right there to deliver the treat as soon as he earns it – there is not a huge need for a bridge between the behavior and the reward.

Here’s the first lesson on patience, with the treat in a closed hand that is removed if Ranger goes for it:

And here is level 2 difficulty, with the treat in an open hand that is closed if Ranger approaches:

These are lovely little interactions and will be a great foundation for calm, safe training sessions with the kids.

My oldest daughter wanted to work with Ranger a little, too, and he was really catching on wonderfully by the end. You can see she is working with him in the sit position, but still on the tether.

Even these little five minute sessions can make a big difference in how a dog expects to interact with kids, so squeeze a little time out of your day and give it a try if you want to start building a positive, controlled relationship between your dog and your children.

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