There’s nothing quite like seeing your child and your dog having a great time playing together. An excellent relationship between the child and your dog is mutually rewarding and beneficial. Both typically have excess energy ready to burn, and your child will probably have more free time and patience to entertain your dog than you do.
Not only will playtime between your child and dog provide them with hours of fun and a healthy release for all that excess energy they have acquired during the day, but it’s also a wonderful way of helping your child stay fit and active. If you’d like to get into the fun, check out the ultimate guide to getting fit with your dog.
If you’d love to see your child eagerly playing with your dog after school rather than looking for screen time or adult interaction, read on for four active games for your child and dog to enjoy together.
If, like us, you’re interested in raising eco-friendly kids through fun activities and habits you’ll love the idea of your child creating an obstacle course for your dog using everyday household items.
An obstacle course is best suited as an outdoor activity in a well fenced back yard but can easily be adapted to become a rainy-day indoor activity. Encourage your child to use everyday household items like chairs, buckets, toys, broom handles, hula hoops, and anything else they can gather to create a course for your dog to weave around, crawl under, jump over, or even balance on.
Part of the fun of creating an obstacle course comes from gathering appropriate items and setting out the course, while the real fun will start once your child starts helping your dog to navigate the course. Encourage your child to problem solve and alter the course as they go to suit your dog’s abilities.
Hide and Seek
Hide and seek can be played in many ways depending on whether you’re playing indoors or outdoors, the amount of room you have, and the way your dog likes to play.
A well-trained dog can be told and stay in and out of the way area while your child hides. When your child has found the perfect hiding spot, they can yell, “Come” and then stay as still as possible while your dog tries to find them. Alternatively, puppies or dogs that are not as well-trained could be helped by the child to find a small treat or their favorite toy.
By providing plenty of encouragement and lots of enthusiasm once your dog has found whatever it was they were looking for, your dog will very quickly learn how to play this fun game.
Playing soccer against the dog is a bit different to playing against a human opponent but can be even more fun once your child gets the hang of it. Use a small soccer ball or another similar sized ball (but not one that will immediately burst if your dog sinks their teeth in) and set up a makeshift goal using a washing basket or tub on its side, or even two sticks on the ground.
The aim is for your child to dribble the ball using their feet, practicing essential soccer skills, while your dog tries to steal the ball off them. Most dogs won’t need any help learning this skill, as they’ll automatically want to join in the fun and get the ball as it moves across the ground.
Go Go Stop
If your dog has already mastered the “sit” command, they’re ready to learn how to play go go stop. Not only is this game great fun for everyone, but it’s also an excellent way of training your dog to be calm and learning how to take their lead from a human. The idea of the game is to teach your dog to stop and sit immediately the human they’re playing with stops walking.
Having already mastered the “sit” command, the next step is to walk slowly with your dog on a short leash, while saying “go” with each step. After a few steps, stand still with both feet together and say “stop”. Encourage your dog to sit and then promptly reward them for doing so. You will need to work with your child to practice this over and over until your dog will reliably stop and sit every time your child stops walking. With enough practice, your child will get to the point where they can walk a little faster, saying “go go go” with every step. When they stop walking and say “stop”, it’s a race to see just how quickly your dog can sit by their side.
Before long, your dog will be able to play this game without a leash, and your child can increase the energy level of the activity. If your dog is becoming too excited, increase the frequency of the “stop” commands. Your dog will soon learn that this is a game of short-lived excitement followed by regaining control.
Your child will have lots of fun coming up with different ways of moving around during the “go” period of the game. Running, dancing, exercises, lots of noise and excitement – anything goes, provided your dog will reliably stop and sit on command.
If you’re working with a puppy or untrained dog who still tends to nip or bark when over-excited, this game is an excellent way of teaching your dog how to control their impulses when excited.
Growing up, some of your child’s most vivid and happiest memories will be those carefree days spent playing with their dog. It’s hard to say who will benefit the most from the arrangement: your child, as they have an active and willing playmate; your dog, getting plenty of exercise and human attention and companionship; or you, safe in the knowledge that both your child and your dog are happy, entertained, getting plenty of exercise, and genuinely enjoying each other’s company.
While your dog and your child are engaged in their next fun activity together, find out more about our best time management tips for working mothers.