4 ways to get the whole family involved in dog training

January 26, 2021
kids with family dog

In many households, getting a family dog usually comes with lines like “It’ll teach the kids responsibility” and “Please mum! We promise we’ll walk him everyday!”

Both of which are the best case scenario, right? Happy dog, happy kids, happy parents.

What happens in most cases, however, is far from the best case scenario. The reality of puppy raising hits like a freight train, and it’s more often than not the parents who are up in the middle of the night for wee-breaks, cleaning up the couch that mysteriously exploded, and shielding the kids from the ever-so-sharp set of puppy fangs.

Then the pup grows up, graduates their classes at puppy school (with maybe even a cute certificate to show for it) and training is done and dusted. Right?

Well, not quite. 

Dog behaviour changes throughout their adolescent months, and well into adulthood — and getting the whole family on board with obedience training, meal times and fun activities is a great way to make sure you’re working on your dog’s behaviour — and giving them an incredible, fun-filled and happy life with you. 

How to get the whole family excited about dog training: 

First of all, training doesn’t even have to feel like training. It shouldn’t be a chore or a burden, and it can be awesome fun for both the family and your dog. 

Here are a couple of tips to get your family into training: 

Learn valuable lessons about dog behaviour 

Learning how dogs view their world, and how we can teach them how to operate in the human world, can teach us about perspective and empathy.

Teaching kids how to think and see the world from the dog’s perspective helps kids understand why dogs behave the way they do, and build a safer and stronger relationship in the process. It’s a great lesson in patience for kids too!  

Use mealtimes wisely 

Standard practice for most families is to serve the dog a meal at around the same time as the family, in the dog’s own bowl. There’s no problem with that, by any means, but why waste that big bowl of rewards (food) without having your dog learn something new, or practice some of the behaviours you’d like to reinforce. 

Here’s what you can do:

  • Either around mealtime or on the daily walk, give each member of the family a portion of the dog’s meal (remember to wear gloves if you feed raw)
  • Encourage each family member to work with the dog for a few minutes on a behaviour 
  • You can work on behaviours like sitting & waiting, focus exercises, loose leash walking, or tricks!) while using the food as a reward 

Turn it into a game (for the dogs and the humans!) 

Just like humans, dogs love learning when it’s in the form of a fun game! 

For example, you can play games like:

  • Hide and seek in the house or garden — where a family member hides while another holds the dog in another room, then calls their name and a recall word like ‘Come!’, before praising and rewarding the dog for coming to find them 
  • Self-control games can be great for kids and dogs — for example, you can have the dog sit or lay down, before setting a treat down in front of them before using your ‘Leave it’ cue word. When the dog focuses on you over the treat, you can praise and release them with an ‘Ok!’. For an extra challenge, kids can work up to ‘writing their name’ with the dog’s kibble on the floor in front of them! 

Try activities like tricks and dog sports 

You haven’t seen excited until you’ve seen a child realising they’ve taught a dog a new trick! 

Trick training is a great learning exercise for kids and dogs — both for kids to learn how dog training works (capturing behaviours, luring, and correctly rewarding) and for the dog, to learn patience and self-control, and that kids aren’t just tiny humans that are fun to chase around!

What about dog sports?

There are plenty of dog sports you can try as a family! Some popular ones include rally, obedience, nosework, and agility. 

If we were to recommend one (and we’re biased, we know) it would be agility, without a doubt!

Agility is the perfect game to play as a family — it helps teach both humans and dogs different body movements, keeps you active and gives a great feeling of satisfaction when you complete an obstacle as a team. 

Dog agility is becoming a more and more popular sport for young people across the world, with many even making it to world-class competitions like Crufts!

Take it from Ann, a member of the OneMind Dogs community and qualifier for Crufts, along with her deaf Cocker-Spaniel, Stella! Ann is the youngest agility competitor in Northern Ireland — and through learning about her dog’s perspective and how her body language communicated with her dog, they excelled in competitions and built an unbreakable bond.

You can read the full interview with Ann here.

How to get started in agility?

In regular times, you could go to your local club and take a class for beginners, however, at the moment (like most other things in life) it’s smarter and safer to get started from home.

OneMind Dogs Foundation for Agility is a fun and simple beginner training programme that teaches you, your family and your dog how to work together as a team, while building skills that you’ll use in everyday life! 

There’s no need for specialised equipment, and most of the exercises can be done in the home or garden. It’s the perfect way to break the boredom at home and build an incredible bond with your family dog.

We’ve got a 7-day free trial available below — give it a try!

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Should you set up a dog agility course in your backyard?

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