Get Your Kids Involved in Training Your Pets

Once her pet catches on to the idea of looking at the target, have your child move on to clicking when her pet touches the stick with his nose. Once her pet has readily started touching the target stick, take away the food on the end of the stick so that he is simply touching the bare target. At this point, your child can cue the behavior with a word ("touch") as the pet’s nose moves toward the target. Once her pet has mastered touching the target, have her start varying the target’s height and distance, gradually making it more difficult to touch the target.

Remember to treat frequently. Novice pets need to be clicked and rewarded 10 times per minute to stay excited about training. Keep training sessions short — a minute or two long — and repeat several times throughout the day; this helps to keep training fun for both your child and her pet. When your child teaches your pet a new trick, it benefits them both. She will be proud of her accomplishment, and your pet will be learning better manners. It's a win-win situation.

4. Tricks Your Child Can Teach Her Pet

Here are three fun and simple tricks your child can teach her dog or cat.

Sit: Have your child take her pet into an area of the house where your family relaxes, such as the family room. If she's working with a dog, it may help to have him on leash to give him less space to roam. Have her sit down and relax. She should be ready to click or use her voice (“good”) and offer a treat as soon as her pet’s bottom hits the floor. Her pet will likely get out of a sit when he eats his treat, so she will need to be ready to click or say “good” as soon as he sits again. Once the pet is doing many sits in a row, your child can add in a word for the behavior ("sit") just before or just as his bottom heads for the floor.

Spin: The goal of the spin is to get your pet turning around in a circle. Initially, your child will be teaching her pet to do just a head turn; eventually she will lead him to turn one-fourth of the way around a circle, then halfway, then three-fourths of the way and then all the way around. To start, have your child hold a treat in front of her pet’s nose and move it outward and back toward the animal's shoulder area. As soon as the pet’s nose starts to turn toward the food, she should click or say “good” and immediately treat. Do this a couple of more times and then start moving the treat farther back so that the dog's or cat's front feet start to move toward the treat. If the pet starts to back up (rather than turning around), have her move the treat forward and restart. Once your child's pet is following the treat without hesitation, she can teach him to follow her empty hand. She should continue to click and treat with her other hand, to reinforce the behavior. Eventually she can start to turn her hand in a smaller and smaller circle until the pet spins in response to a small turn of her hand. Spin is a cute trick that pets and kids both enjoy.

High Five: Your child can teach your dog or cat to high five by teaching him first to target an item, such as a sticky note. Click or say “good” for any movement of the animal’s front foot toward the target area, and treat immediately when his foot moves toward the target. Continue to reward for any movement of the foot toward the target. The goal is for your child's pet to touch the target with his foot. As soon as he starts touching the target with his foot, she can add a verbal command, such as “high five." Next, have her put her hand slightly underneath the target so that it's still resting on the floor; she should say “high five” and reward when the pet touches the target with his paw. As her pet does this, she can gradually move the target into her hand farther until it rests fully on her hand. Once the pet is touching the target in her hand with his paw, she can start to raise the target farther off the ground until he is pulling his paw off the floor to touch the target in her hand. To teach the pet to touch only her hand, your child can make the target smaller by cutting a sticky note into smaller and smaller pieces and finally phasing it out completely. The high five is a fun way for your child to introduce her pet to new people.


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