Getting the Family Dog Involved in Virtual School

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Last week I shared some ways to keep your dog occupied while everyone (kids included!) is working from home. But we can’t separate our dogs indefinitely, and there are actually LOTS of ways to involve dogs with schoolwork. Including the family dog breaks up the monotony and makes projects more fun! Here are some of my favorite ideas, compiled with a little help from my colleagues and fellow parents.

Remember, all activities involving dogs and children require adult supervision and guidance!

For Young Children

When children are learning something new that they can recite, like the alphabet, days of the week, numbers, multiplication tables, etc. have an adult hold the dog on a leash. Give the child a cup with kibble or small treats in it. Then, as the child recites, they walk around the room and drop a treat on the ground for each thing. The adult follows at a distance of a couple feet and lets the dog eat the treats. So for example, “A” drop treat, take a couple steps, dog eats treat while child says “B”, and so on. Special thanks to Family Paws Parent Education for this idea!

When it’s time for an art project, try a doggie model. Set your child up somewhere with a clear view of the dog, or take a picture to use as a reference if Fido won’t stay in one place long enough.

dog reading

For Older Children

One of my favorite things to do with older kids is have them read out loud to dogs. There are several programs in libraries and shelters across the country for this, and studies have shown that reading to dogs builds confidence in children because they know the dogs aren’t judging them. Plus, the dogs don’t care if you’re reading them a textbook or a novel!

 Another great activity for older children is to create a scavenger hunt. (This was also dreamed up by Family Paws Parent Education.) You can turn this into a science project by using different types of treats and seeing which one the dog finds first. To do this, pick one room to work in and put the dog in another room or outside for a few minutes. Hide treats or kibble in places the dog can easily and safely reach. Then have an adult go get the dog and see how long it takes them to find everything! Make sure to give your pup space and observe from one spot so they don’t lose focus.

puppy school

For Homeschool Families

When you have a little more flexibility in your curriculum, there are lots of ways to get your dog involved. For example, making treats as part of math and science, having your child teach the dog a new trick to work on problem solving, and exploring outside with your dog on a leash. Older kids that are interested can learn about dog sports and activities like agility, nose work, tricks, and the Canine Good Citizen test.

dog with glasses

My friend Debra Murray of Smartypaws LLC, a fellow trainer and Licensed Family Paws Parent Educator, has graciously allowed me to share the following links to content she created while homeschooling her own children. Lots of great ideas here for any parent though:

Teaching the dog to stay on a mat while the child reads to them.

Blog post with learning games dogs and kids can play.

Have you come up with other ways to involve your dog with your child’s schoolwork? Let’s hear them in the comments!

Colleen Perry is a dog trainer specializing in family dogs. She has been a Licensed Family Paws Parent Educator since 2017, “helping families with dogs prepare for life with baby and toddler. ™” Colleen and her husband share their home with two toddlers (ages 2 and 4) and 3 dogs. Born and raised in Massachusetts, she lived in New Mexico for 10 years and moved to Memphis earlier this year. She and her family are loving their new home city and are so excited to be surrounded by green after living in the desert! Find Colleen on Facebook www.facebook.com/pawsitivelywaggin for information about dog training services as well as dog and child safety.

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