Robin and I were with a new Home Dog Training client in Big Canoe last week working with his family and Smokey, his one year old Dalmatian. As with all Dalmatians, Smokey was a little hyper and full of energy.  The good news was that he was very attentive to our client and his family.  This made it easy to gain and hold his focus as we worked through the obedience training as well as the behavior issues.  As we were finishing up, our client told us how pleased she was with the results.  She also mentioned that her work often kept her quite busy and was concerned if she would have the time to keep up with the training.  She wondered if her children could work directly with Smokey to keep up the training.  Based on our observations, we said that would be just fine. 

Because of the maturity and behavior of our client’s children, we were sure that having the kids train Smokey would be fine in their situation. We often hear this and it can sometimes turn into a great thing and sometimes go really, really wrong.  Let’s just walk through some scenarios that we have experienced and we will explain what needs to be done.

The kids currently aren’t involved with the dog:

The first thing that we would do would be to get our client’s kids involved with the dog around the house.  

  • Have them take the dog’s bowl to the dog at feeding time.  They have already put the food in.  (We can’t ask for too much…).  
  • Have the the kids there and involved as they are giving their dog a treat.  I want my client to show their kids how to do that and then ask them to try it too.  
  • Have them look after the dog while they are making dinner or on the computer.  My client is still there and in sight, but they have given their kids a little more, passive responsibility.  Their dog can see that and begin to see where they are situated in the social structure.

After the kids are fine and happy with the dog, start involving them with some easy commands like COME and SIT.  The client does the exercises first and then they instruct the kids to join in. They are are always there to encourage the kids and guide them when they need help with the exercise.  It is important that the kids never become physical or angry with the dog.

As the client’s kids see that their dog “will do what they want”, it will give them a feeling of accomplishment.  Include other commands like STAY and WALK.  Again, this is all taken slowly and always in an atmosphere of having fun.

The dog seems to be a little aggressive and nips at the kids:  

Whenever a dog nips, most people instantly acclaim “Oh no, it is an aggressive dog!” Although we always recommend calling us for specific advise, this situation is normally caused by the dog demanding attention.

The first thing you have to do is to establish your dominance over the dog so that he gives you focus instead of doing things that demand your focus.  Have the dog on a leash when they are around the kids.  As soon as he goes near them and begins to nip, correct him and direct him back to you.  You will very quickly notice the warning signs of the dog wanting to nip (get attention) at your kids.  Redirect and correct him before he gets that far.  The dog will quickly learn that he can’t nip and demand attention.

Next, tell your kids to call the dog over to them in a calm manner.  Have them pet him and give him dog treats.  As you see that the dog is no longer the one demanding attention and your kids are no longer threatened by his nipping, you can progress with some simple COME and SIT obedience commands.

The kids are small and their dog is twice their size:  

Robin and I really don’t suggest that your kids train your dog at this time.  They can play with him as you or another responsible adult is there.  You never leave your kids alone with a dog that is twice their size.

This is one of my “I really mean it” rules because I don’t want the little kids accidentally knocked over and hurt by the dog.  I am not saying that the dog is mean or would want to hurt your kids, but they are kids and dogs.  Bumping and falling just happens.  When they are small, this could scare them and make them afraid of dogs the rest of their lives.

It is important that before you have your kids start to train your dog, they should be socialized and accustomed to each other.  Any of the cases that we have discussed above first involves proper socialization so that a level of respect is built between your kids and your dog.

Please call Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 before you allow your kids to start training your dog so we can review your specific situation.  We have many great dog training articles at Best Dog Trainers Big Canoe Georgia.  You can find all the ways to get in touch with us by going to Dog Training Help Center Big Canoe Georgia.