Teens Teach Kids About Dog Training
When friends and neighbors Evelyn Pang and Hilary Louie of San Francisco were 9, a dog training class was offered in their apartment building. Though neither girl had a pup of her own, both loved dogs, so they signed up for the class. Five years and many classes later, the two high school sophomores co-authored Good Dog! Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training (Dogwise Publishing 2008).
Inspired by the belief that kids learn best from other kids, Pang and Louie wrote and illustrated their book, which incorporates expert advice on teaching kids how to read doggie body language, how to be safe around dogs and how to train Rover to do cool tricks. Says Louie: “Kids need to understand and train their dogs so that neither ends up getting hurt.” Below, the young authors share their five favorite tips for kids who live with, or around, dogs.
Tip No. 1: Know your dog’s signals Dogs are playful, peaceful creatures. When a canine feels threatened, it will display “calming signals.” These are visual cues that communicate to nearby dogs or people that the dog doesn’t want to fight. “The fur on the back of its neck will stand up. Its tail may go down, or its head will lower,” explains Pang. When this happens, Louie advises walking away, if you are the one scaring the dog. If a nearby dog or other animal is scaring your furry friend, you should simply remove your dog from the frightening situation.
Tip No. 2: Know your own signals If a strange dog comes running toward you, Pang and Louie advise keeping yourself safe in the following way: be a tree. “Stand still, put your arms by your sides, and your head down. Look at your toes and don’t move,” says Pang. “The dog will think you’re boring, and it will go away.” Running from a dog will signal that you’re up for a game of chase, and looking the dog in the eye may make it feel afraid, which can lead to a fight that both you and the dog don’t want.
Tip No. 3: Be consistent during training Pang and Louie advocate clicker training, which involves reinforcing desirable dog behavior with the sound of a clicker, followed by a treat. The dog learns to associate the click with the reward and comes to understand that that the click is a compliment. But this only works if the trainer is consistent. “You have to click on time, and every time,” stresses Louie. “You have to pay attention at all times during clicker training, or your dog will think you’ve lost interest, and (the activity) won’t be fun anymore.”
Tip No. 4: Treat, don’t trick, during training sessions Dogs in training need rewards in order to learn. What they do not need is for you to yell, or worse. “Don’t punish your dog,” emphasizes Pang. “You are its teacher, and if the dog messes up, it’s sort of like it’s your own fault. It’s your responsibility to teach them.” If things get heated, or you start to feel frustrated, take a break! You can always go back to it later or another day.
Tip No. 5: Have fun! Pang and Louie agree that training is a game, and games should be enjoyable. “If you’re not positive, you’ll get impatient. If you’re not having fun, it’s not a game anymore,” says Louie. The girls believe that training also promotes bonding between humans and canines. It’s the best time to create feelings of closeness between people and their pets. “Your dog will feel your love during training,” says Pang. It should be like hanging out with a friend. You’re doing something together and learning together.