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Head of the Class Dog Training LLC 

Winchester, VA

Safe Ways for Kids to Play With Dogs

Your kids are your pride and joy, and your dog is your best furry friend, so you want to make sure that both are safe and happy when it comes to playtime. Just like with any other activity, kids need to be taught how to safely interact with the dog so that everyone is safe and has a good time. Playtime with the dog needs to be age appropriate and well supervised by an adult. Here are some tips for playtime with your pup, broken down by your children’s ages.

Children Ages 6 Months to 2 Years

Fostering a good and gentle relationship between your child and your dog starts early. Your baby/toddler needs very close supervision when interacting with the family dog. Here are a few activities you can try to build their relationship.

  • Play hide and seek with your dog. Hide with your child and call your dog to come find you.
  • Play peek-a-boo with your dog. Conceal your dog behind a cloth and pull it aside to make your dog reappear to your child.
  • Teach your child how to properly pet the family dog. Call the dog over to your child, carefully observing the dog’s body language to make sure he or she is comfortable, and teach your child how to gently pet the dog’s body. (Note, many dogs do not like being pet on the head, so avoid this.)

Children Ages 2 to 8 Years

  • Let your child throw the ball or toy for your dog to fetch. (Smaller children can stand on a stool to be taller or behind a baby gate to avoid getting jumped on.)
  • Let your child play hide and seek with your dog. You stay with the dog while your child hides, armed with a few treats. Let your child call the dog and give the reward when the dog finds him or her.
  • Give your child bubbles to blow, and let your dog pop them.
  • If you have a water-loving pup, let your child spray the hose (not directly at the dog, but near him or her), and let your dog chase the water stream.
  • Play the Muffin Tin Game. Have your child hide treats in the cups of a muffin tin. Cover the holes with tennis balls or dog toys. Have your dog wait. Then let your child place the pan on the floor and say “Find it!”
  • Fill a Kong with goodies. Show your dog. Have your child hide the Kong somewhere where the dog can fairly easily find it. Have the child return and tell the dog “Find it!” As your dog gets better at sniffing out the treat, have your child make it more challenging.
  • Brain games: encourage your dog and child to play games that make the dog think, like placing a treat under an overturned laundry basket. See how long it takes the dog to figure out how to get the treat out.
  • Use a flirt pole. A flirt pole is a squeaky toy on a stick, like a big cat toy. Place your child inside an exercise pen, and let him / her drag the toy end around the outside of the pen. The child stays safe from being jumped on inside the pen, and the dog gets to run around the outside to get exercise.

Children Ages 9 to 13 Years

  • Have your child play Frisbee and fetch with the family dog.
  • Bring your kids to a dog training class to learn how to work with your dog at home.
  • Let your children research new tricks for your dog and teach them using the same steps from training class. New tricks could be roll over, sit, stay, beg, shake or speak.
  • Have your child compete in more complicated races, like running through agility type exercises with your dog.
  • Have your children research how to make homemade toys and games online and make them for the dog, such as braided tug toys out of old T-shirts or snuffle mats out of old fleece blanket scraps.

If you have questions about what kinds of activities are safe for kids to do with dogs, contact Head of the Class Dog Training. If we don’t know the answer, we can point you in the right direction to ensure everyone has a great playtime experience.

-Lisa Marino

Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.

Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.

She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.