Teaching Children the Right Way to Play with Puppy

Dogs are wonderful companion animals, offering unconditional love and devotion, and asking only belly rubs or a brisk game of fetch in return. Nothing goes better together than kids and puppies… or so you thought!

Sometimes, the idyllic image of your kids running and playing with your new puppy is interrupted by, “Mom! Buddy won’t stop jumping on me!” or “Dad, Lucy keeps biting my arm!”

The key to dealing with these annoying, yet completely normal puppy behaviors is to teach your kids how to interact properly with their new friend. Even young children should be taught some basic dos and don’ts, including:

  • Do be gentle playing with puppy
  • Don’t pull his tail or ears
  • Do pet puppy calmly while she is sitting or lying down
  • Don’t disturb him while he is eating or sleeping
  • Don’t tease the puppy with a toy or food
  •  Do play games like fetch with puppy or take her for a walk in the yard
  • Don’t reward jumping with attention of any kind. Turn your back on puppy to discourage the behavior
When it comes to biting, it’s important to understand that puppies explore their world by chewing on everything, including you. Puppy biting is not meant to harm, but those little needle teeth can do a number on skin!

Every puppy is introduced to restraint, called bite inhibition, by his mother and siblings during play. Now your family has to continue his lessons. Here’s what to do when puppy bites:

  • Make a high-pitched noise, like a yelp, to let your pup know he’s gotten too rough. Get up and walk away from the play session.
  •  Older kids can engage a tongue-depressor method, firmly pressing their thumb or finger down on puppy’s tongue at the back of her throat. This should be paired with a firm, “Out” or “No Bite”.
  • Offer the flat of your palm against his nose to solicit “kisses.” Praise lavishly when your puppy interacts gently with her mouth; kisses should be named and praised. (“Kisses, good kisses”).
Playtime can be a lot of fun for both puppies and kids, but should always be supervised by an adult to ensure that no one is getting too rough. When play becomes too intense, a short break in the crate or playpen will help your puppy to settle down and collect himself.