Games for Pets and Kids – Part I

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This is the first part of a two part article, to be published on sequential days.

Bring the Family Together with these ideas

People with pets and kids under the age of 4 may find it hard to play together as a family. But playtime is an important part of the bonding experience.  

Playtime helps in the development of physical and social skills, for pets and kids alike. So how can we provide playtime for everyone, including our dogs? There are only so many hours in a day and the games we play with our children and our dogs are totally different, right?

Well, sure, some games are not for dogs, like Lego or Duck, Duck, Goose or role-playing with dolls. Dogs may be forced into a game that is not to their liking, though they will tolerate them. This is not especially safe in the presence of small children. Bur there are games that come naturally to both children and dogs–even without having to go outdoors!

There are three game I use at home with my 2 year old, 24 lb toddler and 5 year old, 79 lb Labrador.  There are a few rules that should be explicitly explained to all who are playing. Everyone should also be well versed in the game before it actually begins.  

Treasure hunt

Is there a child that doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? The same can be said for dogs, what with their hunting instinct and sense of smell.

We can go about the treasure hunt in more than one way. Below are my favorite two.

Use 5 or 6 hard plastic or wooden cups (don’t use party cups – they’ll only last one or two rounds). Start the game in a small space so he won’t lose interest. Keep the dog calm and sitting next to you and ask your toddler (or child) to hide some dog treats under a few of the cups. Then, send your pup out to “smell”. You and the children can be the cheering team whilst your dog searches for the goodies. Keep saying “fetch” and vocalize positive feedback (with your voices) each time a snack is found.

Be conscientious of the amount of treats your dog is consuming as we don’t want him to be overfed in a short time span. Maybe use only part of the daily amount of pet food or reduce the amount of food at the next meal to compensate for the increases in snacks that day.

Another way to play is by keeping the dog out of the area outside where you’ll be playing and hiding the treats there. Then you won’t need the cups and you can add your pet’s favorite toys to the game. In a larger space, you can follow your dog with your toddler in your lap, pointing to the hiding places if your pup starts looking a bit lost.

Rules for your well-trained dogs

  • Sit and heel on command
  • Eat snacks after given the signal to do so
  • Avoid stressing and scratching his way into the area where the treasure hunt is being set up

Rules for the Toddler in this game

  • Stay near to the adults playing the game
  • Avoid interfering with the canine “seeker”
  • Don’t eat the dog biscuits!
  • Keep your hands away from your mouths until the game is over and everyone’s hands are washed

(to be continued in Part II tomorrow – with 2 more games)

Author: Miguel Pais, marine biologist

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