by Janette Bishop

Having young children and a dog in your house can be quite challenging at times. We can’t control all the interactions our children have with our dogs,  so it can get quite complicated. They’re doing things that influence the dogs, and vice versa. We can talk to the children about how to behave around the dog, but how do we communicate with the dog? 

When something happens, it’s often too late to control the dog, because they are already too excited. So we need to look at ways of letting our dogs know what to do in different situations. This is where cues come in. We can look at cues that will come in handy for multiple situations we might find ourselves in with our children. A few simple cues can give order to a busy household, making life as a parent a little less stressful. 

The easiest cue to teach is sit. It comes in handy in so many ways. Don’t want your dog to jump up at people? Use sit. Need to get the baby out of the car first? Use sit. When the cue sit is practiced lots of times, the dog’s brain is reinforced so much that they find it easier to manage, in situations that need a little bit of self control. When combined with teaching them to stay, this cue becomes even stronger, and you can use it when you’re trying to play with your toddler on the floor, and don’t want the dog picking up their toys. 

This brings us to stair gates for dogs. They can be taught that, doing a stay behind a stair gate, while you eat your dinner with your children, is a great thing. It’s much nicer than having to shut them away, and have them barking because they want to join you at the table. 

Alternatively, you can teach your dog to go to their bed while you’re eating with the kids. When children drop food on the floor, it can set the dog up to fail, as they are rewarded for hanging about the table by getting dropped food. The cue Leave it is a great one for this too. It works for toys you don’t want your dog to run off with as well. 

Cues are important for safety too. Children love to play tug with dogs, so teaching the rules of tug is essential before you let them play it. You want your dog to stop when you tell them to, and not to get over excited, as they could accidentally catch a child’s hand with their teeth. This will also prevent them from tugging at the children’s clothing when they’re not supposed to be playing tug! 

As a trainer and behaviour practitioner, I have visited families and they have been surprised and relieved to find out that all they need to do is teach a few simple cues. For help and advice on this, and other behaviour issues, please go to the facebook group, Help! My Dog… run by me, Janette Bishop.

If you have any tips on how to train my children, I’d love to hear them! LoL.