top of page

Don't let your Kids PLAY with your Puppy! Of course they can, in the right way.

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

What? Why? When a professional puppy trainer says to you - 'Don't let your Kids PLAY with your Puppy!' they may just know more than you think they do about how these 2 important parts of our lives, who can both get on, and get on harmoniously - straight away. It may be the best advice you ever get.

Kids playing with their puppy
Kids can Play with a puppy. Puppy games NOT kids games

Of COURSE your puppy and your kids should play, love, pat and become "Best Mates". Playtime between children and puppies or dogs is an important and enjoyable experience for both parties involved when we get it right.

However, and it's a big however, it's essential to establish some guidelines to ensure the safety of the children and the well-being of the puppy. This blog post by Peter Bonney one of Australia's leading puppy trainers aims to provide parents with some do's and don'ts of playing with a puppy, along with tips on managing youthful energy and promoting a safe and harmonious play environment.

Why should our kids play puppy games with our new puppy?

Teaching gentle play is crucial when it comes to children and their puppies. It's important to encourage your child to interact with the puppy using calm movements and soft touches. Do this as soon as the puppy comes home. Show them the proper way to pet and interact with the puppy with slow strokes, emphasising the avoidance of rough, excited or aggressive behavior. I know this is very hard as children get very excited when the dogs come into our homes. This is the time to restrict your puppy in order to stop the puppy jumping on the kids when they are getting ready for school.

A child and their puppy Sitting Down
I LOVE you buddy. Let's be great friends

It is also essential to get the kids to sit on a small stool or chair, where possible, when they pat the puppy. This can be helpful for the future relationship as it sets the child slightly higher in the 'pecking order'. It can help STOP the puppy from biting and nipping them ,and jumping up on them.

Early education is key in this regard, as many kids tend to treat their puppies as toys or objects. Even older kids above 10 years of age often lack understanding about the implications of their actions.

Parents, caregivers, and guardians may also overlook the ongoing consequences of not providing proper education to both puppies and children. Not understanding that restricting a puppy is very necessary. I always talks about the Big 3 at ALL of our Puppy Magic classes: The PUPPIES SAFE places. In a crate, In a playpen, beside the Alphas foot.

Getting a puppy is an exciting time in our kids' lives, and it might be their only chance to experience having a dog as a pet.

How do I teach the puppy to be calm and relaxed around the kids?

I love giving my puppy treats
Rewards for being good and focusing on me.

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool when it comes to guiding puppy behavior. Reward your puppy with treats and praise whenever they engage in appropriate and calm play behavior, such as playing with toys or following commands. This approach helps reinforce positive interactions and encourages the puppy to engage in calm and relaxed behavior. However, it's essential to remember that this positivity is not limited to the dog alone. We must also train our kids from day one on how to be and react around the puppy, with the goal of keeping the dog calm. We don't want to make the puppy overly excited, as this can lead to long-term issues.

As Val Bonney, our training matriarch wisely states, "Resetting a super excited puppy, takes a lot more work in the future, than preventing the puppy from getting overly excited in the first place."

At Bonnie's Dog Obedience and Puppy School, we emphasise the importance of setting clear boundaries for playtime between children and puppies. It may sound surprising, but we advise that 'children should not play with their puppies when engaging in children's games'. When I share this advice with our clients, I often receive bewildered looks and questions like, "What do you mean my puppy can't play with the kids?" Let me explain the reasoning behind this recommendation in a simple way.

Why can't my kids play, kids games, with our puppy?

Imagine the kids playing inside or outside, jumping on a trampoline, or enjoying a game of backyard cricket. During these energetic activities, the puppy is not welcome to join. Why, you ask? Well, when our puppies engage with little ones, they tend to become overexcited, nipping, biting, jumping, and invading everyone's space. This behavior can lead to serious issues and potentially dangerous situations. Let me illustrate this with an example: backyard cricket or baseball.

Baseball and my puppy
Looks like FUN - may end in tragedy

As the kids play with a ball, the puppy becomes enticed by the game and rushes out to join in the fun. However, the puppy doesn't understand that it can't play whenever it wants to. Tragically, families have lost their beloved puppies due to accidents caused by this very scenario. Picture this: the ball is thrown and the batsman takes a powerful swing with the bat, unaware of the puppy approaching. The swing connects with the puppy's head, resulting in severe injury or even death. It's a heart-wrenching outcome that we must prevent.

To avoid such incidents, it's crucial to manage the puppy on a leash or in a safe zone, such as a crate or playpen, or beside your foot when the kids are playing their games.

How can my Kids play with the puppy?

When the kids want to engage with the puppy in a controlled manner, it's a wonderful opportunity to encourage their interaction. Kids can roll a ball for the puppy, pat and pet them, play the "find the treat" game, or practice leash training and giving commands, rewarding the puppy with treats for their good behavior. These activities allow children to bond with their new 'best mate' family member while being respectful and understanding that they are playing with a dog, not just another playmate.

By establishing these boundaries and providing guidance, we can ensure the safety of both the children and the puppy. Remember, it's essential to create a harmonious relationship where everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. Together, we can foster a loving and secure environment for both children and their adorable four-legged companions. These activities provide mental and physical stimulation for the puppy while fostering a bond with the child.

What are the 13 Do's and Don'ts of playing games with a puppy?

Do's and don'ts in brief:

Be calm around your puppy
Please don't let the kids play roughly with a puppy!

  1. Avoid rough play: Discourage rough play or games that may encourage biting, nipping, or chasing behaviors. Puppies have sharp teeth and can unintentionally harm children during overly energetic play.

  2. No teasing or provoking: Teach your child not to tease or provoke the puppy by pulling its tail, ears, or fur. Such actions may lead to defensive or aggressive responses from the puppy. It almost always does. When this occurs the kids start screaming and running around and the puppy thinks its a game, and keeps on going. A puppy has no idea what TEARS mean.

  3. Avoid overwhelming the puppy: Puppies have limited attention spans and can become overwhelmed easily. Limit play sessions to short, manageable durations, allowing the puppy to rest and recharge between sessions. You must be with the kids and the puppy, whenever you can. You are the Boss, the Alpha, so it's up to you to address any issues. Kids can not do this when they are young. They become to emotional to be effective.

  4. Don't punish the puppy: If the puppy displays undesirable behavior during play, such as biting, redirect their attention to a toy or engage in a different activity. Avoid scolding or punishing the puppy, as it may cause fear or anxiety. This requires Mum, Dad or carer to be watching the kids play with the puppy. If an adult is not available then the Puppy does not play with the kids.

  5. Regular exercise: Ensure your puppy receives regular exercise to burn off excess energy. Engage in activities such as walks, runs, or playing in a fenced yard to help tire them out.

  6. Mental stimulation: Provide your puppy with interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and training sessions to keep their mind engaged and prevent boredom.

  7. Training and obedience: Enroll your puppy straight away in a reputable Puppy School. Then get them into basic obedience classes to help them learn commands and appropriate behaviors. This training will also assist in managing their energy levels. Please ask your potential puppy trainers, how they train and what they do? Why?

  8. Supervision: Always supervise playtime between children and puppies. Keep a close eye on their interactions to intervene if necessary and to prevent any potential accidents. Sit them on your left and manage the opportunity to familiarise the puppy. The children can play, and must play without the dog, at first. This is until the puppy is 8 months or older.

  9. Establishing boundaries is a crucial aspect of educating your child about appropriate interactions with the puppy. It's essential to teach them to respect the puppy's personal space and understand the boundaries that should be maintained. Some key boundaries to emphasise are not disturbing the puppy while it's eating or sleeping or even when they are awake and relaxing. These moments are important for the puppy's well-being and should be respected by the children and the whole family.

  10. To reinforce these boundaries, it's important to establish designated areas such as a crate, playpen, or when the puppy is on a leash, where the child is not allowed to intrude. These areas are considered out of bounds for the kids. We make it clear to children that they should not enter the puppy's playpen, and it is reserved exclusively for the puppy. This is a vital rule that should be strictly followed. We teach children to ignore the puppy when it is in any of these designated places. It means they should refrain from engaging with the puppy while walking past the crate, playpen, or when the puppy is on a leash.

  11. By teaching children to respect these boundaries, we help them understand the importance of giving the puppy its own space and promoting a safe and peaceful environment for both the child and the puppy. It is through consistent adherence to these rules that we can foster a strong sense of responsibility and empathy in our children, ensuring a harmonious relationship with their furry companion.

  12. Puppy socialisation: Expose your puppy to various people, including children, from an early age. This socialisation helps them become comfortable and well-behaved around kids. Please click on the link to see more in our article on socialisation.

  13. Introducing the "gentle" command is a valuable tool to teach your child how to interact with the puppy. This command emphasises the significance of maintaining a calm and gentle demeanor during their interactions. It's important to note that we specifically use this command for the kids. Why? Well, when a young child consistently uses the "gentle" command with the puppy, they internalise this behavior as their own, creating a lasting impact. The simplicity of the command makes it easy for them to remember and apply in their daily interactions with the puppy. By incorporating the "gentle" command into their vocabulary, we instill a sense of empathy and compassion within the child, which reflects in their behavior towards the puppy and extends to their overall conduct.

puppy rules at home
Rules to LIVE by when you have a puppy

Conclusion: Playing with a puppy can be and is a delightful experience for children, promoting companionship and empathy, while teaching them responsibility. By following the do's and don'ts mentioned above, managing youthful energy, and promoting safe play, parents can ensure a positive and safe interaction between their kids and their new 'Best Mate'. Remember, setting clear guidelines and supervision are key to fostering a harmonious relationship between children and puppies. Puppies and Dogs MUSt have Rules they can follow. Always be consistent for life.

🎉 Woof-tastic News Alert! 🐾 Peter Bonney here, your go-to Dog Whisperer and Director of Bonneys Canine Group, trading as "Bonnies Dog Obedience and Puppy School". Guess what? We've just snagged our 7th award for "Best Dog Obedience and Puppy School Australia 2023," and we're doing a happy-dance! 🕺💃

We couldn't have done it without you and your furry BFFs. So, why keep this paw-some news to yourself? Share it with every dog lover you know—the breeder who introduced you to your fur baby, the vet who keeps their tail wagging, and all your friends who go weak in the knees for puppy eyes! 🐶

Let's get the conversation going! 🗨️ Drop a comment below and spill the kibble—what doggy dilemmas are you dying to get expert advice on? Your questions could spark our next award-winning article or training program! Go through the Articles on our website for ALL of your puppy Answers.

Your input is like a belly rub for us—it's why we do what we do! Let's make our community the ultimate playground for kids and their four-legged 'Best Mates.' 🐾👦👧

Share, comment, and stay tuned. Together, we're unleashing a happier, safer world for everyone. 🌍💚

Paws and love, Peter Bonney, Trainer and Director 🐕‍🦺


Oct 07, 2023

Brilliant. It works


Aug 23, 2023

We didn’t know any of this. We have implemented the foot on lead thing. OMG saved our sanity. Great

bottom of page