The topic of this article might have you wondering. First, let me be clear: Dogs are not children. However – many of the same teaching principles when working with children apply when you are playing with or teaching (not ‘training’), your dog. Drawing from interviews I’ve had with master dog trainers, animal behaviorists, and veterinarians, and informed by my own experiences teaching children as an elementary school teacher for ten years, I will be sharing ways that teaching and playing games with your dog is very similar to working with children.
In the last two articles, how to teach dog to roll over I discussed how working with children and dogs is similar in the following four ways:
- The environment in which a child learns greatly impacts how and what a child is able to learn. Similarly, the environment in which a dog learns greatly impacts how and what a dog is able to learn.
- Children learn best with a person they trust and whom they have bonded with. Similarly, dogs learn best with a person they trust and whom they have bonded with.
- One of the most effective and enjoyable ways that children learn is through playing with toys and by playing games….and….One of the most effective and enjoyable ways that dogs learn is through playing with toys and by playing games.
- Children love and need meaningful, purposeful, problem-solving challenges. Similarly, dogs love and need meaningful, purposeful, problem-solving challenges.
In this article, I will discuss two more ways in which working with children and dogs is similar:
5. Children fully engage in learning challenges that offer multi-sensory learning experiences (see, hear, smell, touch, and taste)…and…Dogs fully engage in learning challenges that offer multi-sensory learning experiences.
Again – the similarities do seem obvious. Think about the difference between asking children to practice their spelling words by printing out each word five times on a piece of paper, or alternatively, giving the child a silver pie tin (visually stimulating) with some dry pudding in it (smelling) and working with a partner to practice spelling each word (hearing), and then licking their finger each time they get a word spelled correctly (tasting). How you present a task tells me everything about how much the children are going to love (or not love) learning. In the same way, the more we can involve all of a dog’s senses in a positive way – particularly smell and hearing because these senses are superiorly developed for dogs – the more successful the teaching is going to be.