Before I had kids, my dogs were my life. So, when I had kids, it was a huge adjustment. I never want my dogs to feel upset because they are left out, so I’m always trying to figure out how to keep their days interesting too.
As much as I would love to devote one-on-one attention to each of my “children,” I can’t. With two dogs, an almost 3-year-old, and a 2-month-old, there aren’t enough hours in the day. So, the best way to keep everyone happy is to play games that involve the toddler and dogs (these games would also likely be enjoyed by most young children). The baby will join in in a few months!
So, this is a pretty straight forward one. If you have a dog who likes to fetch, you have so many options for entertainment!
I find it is key to give the toddler a “spot.” Otherwise, it is just too tempting for the toddler to play keep away with the ball. Next thing you know, your dog is chasing your screaming toddler, and everything has gone amuck!
For my toddler’s spot, I use one of those cheap bathroom stools from IKEA. This is a good physical reminder for her to stay in one place.
It’s not a bad idea to also give your dog a spot. Set out a dog bed or crate mat near the toddler’s spot. Encourage your dog to return here after each ball toss. We “encourage” by giving our dog a small piece of string cheese each time he brings the ball back. I recommend dropping the treat directly onto the dog bed. Before you know it, your dog will be bringing the ball to the bed each time. This prevents your dog from crowding your toddler or dropping a slobbery ball on her!
To keep everyone’s interest, you can mix up the fetch item. Roll back vehicles are a big favorite in our family. They also provide a fun challenge to the dog if they are difficult to pick up. We also do holiday themed dog toys, like we might get a squeaky heart plush toy for Valentines day (this is more for my toddler than my dog). But, from my dogs’ perspective, nothing beats a good old KONG SqueakAir ball.
2) “Feeding” the Dogs
If you have a toddler who also likes to help, this may be just the game for you!
First, you will need to meal prep. Your toddler can help with this part. Measure out a little less than your dog’s normal daily meal ration into a plastic container with a lid (maybe 10% less). Then, take a handful of treats and sprinkle it in the container (this makes up for the 10% less of kibble). Once that’s done, snap on the lid and shake it up! Keep this container somewhere high up, out of reach of your dog and toddler.
Whenever you need to give your toddler something to do, put your dog into a baby-gated room. Leave your toddler outside of the room. Add a scoop of the food/treat mixture from your container to an empty dog dish, and let your toddler feed away! Your toddler will be safely behind the baby gate.
You will still need to supervise though in case your toddler tries sticking her hand through the bars. Remind her that dogs need their space when they eat (even if yours doesn’t, it’s a good general rule to teach her!).
You could add some skill building for your toddler:
- Toss each kibble as far as she can
- Toss each kibble as close as she can
- Rolling kibbles
- Aiming into another empty dish on the other side of the gate
It sounds so simple, but my toddler loves this game. I think yours will too!
As your toddler gets more comfortable with this game, encourage her to request any obedience that your dog might know before rewarding him with kibbles.
This game will teach your toddler coordination skills. Plus, it will just keep them safely busy, which is nice. This game will teach your dog to listen to your toddler, even if their speech is a bit different than yours. And, it will teach your dog to associate your toddler with feeding, which will strengthen their bond.
3) Doggy TV
Okay, it’s not really TV. But, it can keep your toddler interested in your dog, like TV!
This game involves preparing a few activity toys for your dog (which can be done with your toddler).
For this activity, I like the KONG Wobbler or the KONG Classic toys. But, you can probably find a variety of activity toys that would work well for this game.
Once you make some delicious activity toys for your dog, park your toddler on a spot. I use my trusty IKEA bathroom stool for this activity too, but a highchair would be great too if you have a wiggly toddler. Once your toddler is settled give your dog the toy(s) in an area where your toddler will have a nice clear view, and let the entertainment begin!
You may be surprised at the moves your dog pulls out! My dogs will bite, kick, fling, paw at, drag around, and roll on their toys to try to get the food out. My toddler can’t get enough. I even think the baby likes it!
*Obviously, for game #3, you should not do this game if you dog shows food aggression toward your toddler.