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Learn Through Play: Games for Dogs and Kids

Summer is the perfect time to get your child more involved with the family dog. Whether it’s a new puppy, adult rescue, or a dog you have had for years, these games can teach both dogs and kids something new. And, they will cost you next to nothing to keep your child busy for at least an hour.

Red Light- Green Light

Remember this game? Not sure kids still play this, but the rules are simple enough AND it’s the best game in the world if you have a dog that wants to grab onto running kids.


All you need is some space, a backyard or large living cleared of furniture is best.

two lines made with chalk, tape, string, etc., as far apart as you wish, but at least 8 feet apart.

The Game

  • Dog is loose and kids will stand on one line.
  • Parent says “green light” and kids start to go as quickly as they can to the other line.
  • IF any of them feel the dog grab them, they stop and “wait” for the dog to stop grabbing them, then they can continue.
  • First one to the other line, wins!

What the dog learns – the game (running kids) stops when they grab them

What the child learns – what to do when the dog grabs them

Hide and Seek

Hide ‘n’ seek with a dog (or dogs) can be a fun way to help your pup learn her recall while entertaining the kids

A new twist on an old favorite, this game really is all about your dog – but the kids will have fun while she learns to come!


Have kids hide all over the house, backyard, park, etc. Make sure each kid has several treats and/or a toy for your dog.

The Game

  • Start the dog in a “neutral” position somewhere in the middle of where all the kids are hidden.
  • Kids take turns calling the dog with his recall command. When they find the kid, they get rewarded with treats and toys. If he goes to the wrong kid, he gets nothing.
  • What the dog learns – this helps with your dog’s recall and then learn to discern who is calling them. I am sure you have seen the dog that when the owner calls goes to the next nearest human instead.

Simon Says

Play this just like regular Simon Says, but the dog is going to do the work! The caveat is that each child will need their own dog, this is perfect for a doggy/kiddo play date.


Have the “Simon” stand in front of the kids and their dogs.

The Game

  • Just like the traditional game, Simon will say “Simon Says” and then give a command, but it will be a doggy behavior such as sit, rollover, high five, lie down, etc.
  • Remember, if they don’t say “Simon Says” you don’t do it! If you ask your dog to do it, you are out!
  • Each child gets 3 chances, if the dog doesn’t do the behavior on the 3rd try, their out.
  • But, if they say the cue more than once per “try” they are out!
  • The last child standing wins!

What the dog learns – behaviors and how to listen to kids. Make it more challenging by giving the kid a dog that is not their own

What the kid learns – that dog training can be fun! They learn to not repeat cues, and to give the dog a few chances before quitting.

Musical Chairs

This games also requires each child to have a dog, but it’s so much fun the parents are going to want to join in.


Place enough Chairs for EVERYONE (different from the original game) in an outward facing circle

Have the kids line up with their dogs in heel position around the chairs

The Game

Start the music and have the kids walk with the dogs on loose leash (no pulling) around the chairs. IF the dog pulls, the kid must stop moving

When the music stops, each kid must put their dog in a sit-stay and run and sit in a chair themselves.

Wait 5 seconds. If a dog breaks his stay, that team is out.

Repeat the above steps

Last child/dog team wins!

Variations (Depending on child/dog skill level): can have mats down and have the dogs do a down stay on a mat; can have children send dog to the mat; start removing chairs so kids can get out by missing a chair AND dog breaking a stay

What the dog learns: loose leash walking and stay with plenty of distractions

What the kids learn: dog training is fun!

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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