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Is Your Puppy Play Creating a Puppy Monster?

Puppy nipping

I’ve discovered that people often don’t know how to play with their puppy. One of the most common challenges my clients want help with is addressing an overly “mouthy” and “nippy” puppy. After years of observation, I’ve discovered this behavior is often the result of how we interact and play with our dogs.

In this article, I’m going to focus on why dogs are overly nippy with children when they are trying to play, and, how to fix it. Although it is normal for puppies to nip and grab things with their mouths, the way we play with them can make it into a problem, especially for kids.

First, let’s understand the problem a bit more. Most of us misunderstand the concept of playing with a puppy. We usually want to engage in roughhousing and wrestling, getting down on the floor with them, handling the dog all over using fast hand motions, or playing some chasing game. Sound familiar? All of this leads to over-stimulation, which leads to puppy nipping and mouthy behavior.

Let’s look at this from a dog’s perspective. Dogs use their mouths the same way we use our hands….to touch, grab things, just generally explore. If we are touching the dog a lot, it encourages them to use their mouth the same way we are using our hands.

Another natural behavior for a dog is prey drive. Dogs have an instinct to be attracted to moving things, which includes kids running.

Being conscious of your hand movements and avoiding running away, or generally fast movements, can begin to help limit your puppy nipping, biting and jumping.

So, what can you do to play instead?

My favorite way to interact is to get two dog toys to start a game while sitting on the floor (or short stool if your dog is too excited). I love to show people how to make the toy “come alive” by having it move along the floor with random bouncy, fast movements, which we know puppies love. Now we’re using prey drive to our advantage. As soon as the dog get’s close to the toy, very quickly toss it a few feet away. The dog will follow that movement and either pick up the toy and drop it, or carry it back to you where you are waiting. Repeat the process with another handy toy.

If your dog brings the toy back, I recommend not trying to immediately take the toy away…don’t play tug-of-war…keep the focus the other toy. You can also try to trade the toy for a piece of kibble, and when they drop the toy, toss it again right away as a reward.

Soon you can add the words “give it” when they trade for the kibble and maybe “fetch” when they chase the toy. The goal is to keep the focus on the toy, and keep it moving.

Remember, you can still have fun playing with your puppy, but play the right way to minimize overly “nippy” and “mouthy” behavior.

If you are looking for more games to play with your dog, I have more games to try like the Hide and Seek Game on the Kids-n-K9s.com site.

Have fun

3 Sniffer Dog Games to Play With Your Family Dog

sniffer dog games to play with your child and your family dog

Dogs love to play games just like kids. As someone who instructs adults how to play sniffer dog games, or nose work games, with their dogs, I wanted to give you some fun games that children could play.

Not only are these games fun, but this can also help to build a bond between your child and their dog.

Before you start, pick a command like “find it”, “search” or “seek”. Once you have a word, always use that same command for your dog.

Be sure to keep the games fun by always ending play after a successful search.  I would recommend not searching more than three different times. You always want to end the game before your dog gets tired of playing. This way he will be eager to play again the next time.

While you play with your dog they will be getting a lot of treats.  Be sure the pieces are very small, like pieces of dog kibble. You can use your dog’s food if you want.

Here is your first game…

sniffer dog games to play with your dog and child

 

“Which Hand?” Game

  1. Sit in front of your dog.
  2. Put a treat in one hand and show it to your dog. Then enclose it in your fist.
  3. Keeping your hand about 12 inches apart, show both closed hands to your dog.
  4. Give your dog the search command.
  5. If he sniffs the correct hand, open your hand and give the treat and lots of praise.
  6. If he gets it wrong, show him the correct hand, but DO NOT give him the treat. Just try again.
  7. Repeat the game, but switch hands.
  8. Remember: always give the treat and LOTS of praise when your dog is correct!

Game no. 2:            

sniffer dog games to play with your child and your family dog

“Under the Cup Search”

  1. Put 3 cups or containers upside down in front of your dog.
  2. Show your dog to treat and then hide it under one of the cups. The first time, let your dog see which cup you hide it under.
  3. Give your dog the search command.
  4. Your dog should go immediately to the correct cup and either push it or knock it over to get the treat.
  5. If your dog is correct, given the treat and lots of praise.
  6. If your dog is not correct, lift the container and let him see the treat, but don’t let him get it. Give the search command again.
  7. After your dog successfully found the treat a couple of times, start hiding it without your dog seeing which cup it under.

Game 3:                          

sniffer dog games to play with your family dog and your child

“Room Search”

  1. Show your dog a treat.
  2. Either have your dog “sit/stay” or have someone hold her while you hide the treat in plain sight. Let your dog see where you put it so she will be successful.
  3. Return to your dog to give your search command.
  4. Your dog should run to the treat. When she finds it give lots of praise.
  5. After several successful easy hides, try making it harder. You could place the treat under a magazine, under the edge of a cushion or pillow, under the corner of a rug — somewhere the dog can get to the treat, but not see it.
  6. If your dog finds it, she gets the treat and lots of praise. If your dog is struggling, either she doesn’t understand, or you’ve hidden the treat too well! Since we always want the dog to be successful and love playing this game, you can go back to hiding the treat in plain sight and work up to harder hides. You can even try hiding it in a separate room from where she is waiting.

I hope you have fun playing these games with your child and your dog!

Teaching Your Dog Hide and Seek!

Playing hide and seek with your dog and child

Why play hide and seek with your dog? 

– It’s a great way to teach a dog to come to his name

– It’s a fun way for children to interact with their dog

Playing this with your dog and child is fun for all.  Initially, you will need to guide and participate, but after a couple of times playing, your child may be able to do this without your help.

This is an indoor game to start.  You may be able to play outside once your dog knows the game.

You will need:

  • Kibble or small dog treats (slightly larger than a pea)
  • 4-6 ft. leash and collar or harness on your dog
  • Your child wearing clothing with pockets to carry treats

To start:

 Step one:  Prime the dog!

Hold the leash loosely at the handle, say your dog’s name and “come!”, in a happy voice and as soon as your dog looks at you or takes a step towards you, give a piece of kibble and say, “Good dog!” Now have your child copy you and practice calling your dog.  Its important to give immediate positive feedback to your dog when they respond to the person calling their name.  Have your child practice giving the treat on the palm of their hand. Repeat this 4-6 times. If your child is uncomfortable about handing the treat to their dog, they can drop kibble on the floor. The most important thing is to do it as soon as the dog looks to you.

Step 2: Playing the game:

Parent holds leash initially to keep the dog from following the child.

Child hides, (this can be behind a door(keep the door up and have the child step behind), in an open closet, under a table, beside a bed, etc.) somewhere that the dog has access to reach the child.

Have the child shout “ready” followed by “(dog’s name), come!” 

Hopefully your dog will immediately start to go to your child’s voice. If not, you are holding the leash so if the dog doesn’t understand this first time, you can guide until it finds the child, but the dog should lead the way after he understands the game.  Every few seconds, have child repeat the call to help the dog locate the sound.

As soon as the dog finds the child they should immediately praise (“Good dog!”) as they give the dog the treat!

Repeat in a new area.  Play this no more than 4- 6 times as you want both the dog and the child to stay excited to play!  You don’t want the dog to get burned out on being called.  If you teach the command “wait” your child can use this to have the dog wait to be called each turn.

Repeat the next day and you’ll soon have a dog who likes to come when called and a happy child.

Have fun!   By  Lesley Zoromski