Dog News

Play Red Light -A Fun Training Game For Kids and Dogs

by Nancy Freedman-Smith

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peter and flowers

Take advantage  of both your dog’s and your kid’s love of games and play Red Light! Red Light will teach your kids how to train the dog while giving the dog a new, improved respect for your children. Best of all, playing the dog training game Redlight will help tire your dog out and we all know a tired dog has a happy family.If you ever wished  that your dog had an off switch, Red Light can help.  The game helps teach self control and the game is also beneficial for kids because it teaches them a most important safety rule. Kids will learn that if they are ever chased by a dog they should stop – and the dog will stop too. Kids will see how their behavior contributes to a dog’s reactions, and when they play Red Light together the kids will be helping the dog learn that all important “Chill Skill. It is also a great alternate behavior for dogs to learn to not jump up on the kids.
How to playStep 1: Dogs and puppies need only know how to sit before starting this game.
Step 2: To start, an adult should be in charge and holding the dog on a leash. Start by taking only one step and rewarding the dog for “sit.” Put your dog between yourself and a wall to teach him to sit right next to you. Be sure to reward your dog with praise and treats for all sits he performs. Gradually lengthen the intervals of movement time. As you progress, be sure to reward the dog for “offered” sits, those that he performs without being told. Your dog will realize that when you stop and he sits he will be rewarded. 
Once your dog is offering sit, you can then start to encourage faster sits by rewarding only the best efforts. To keep the dog’s interest, he needs to get paid. Don’t go more than three sits in a row without treats during this training stage. 
Step 3: With your dog on a leash or with his leash dragging, Call “Green Light” and have the players walk. Start with one child next to you holding a treat either in a closed fist or in a bait bag. (For younger children you should control all food and hand the goodie over to the child to feed as needed.) Before the dog starts to get excited, call “Red Light” and have the players stand quietly with hands at their sides. The child should give the dog a treat for sitting. 

An adult should be monitoring the dog very closely and be ready to step in and regain control if the dog becomes too excited or out of control. Once this stage is going well, the adult can step to the sidelines and let the child take the dog. Call “Green Light” for forward movement, and “Red Light” for the child to stop and the dog to sit. When the child and the dog get the hang of it add more players.

Step 4: In no time you should be playing off-leash, or with a leash dragging, and hopefully you will be able to incorporate some pretty wild behavior by the human players. Depending on your dog’s level of training and excitement, you can gradually work up to waving your arms, dancing, whooping and hollering or running wildly. This can be a great tool for teaching a young puppy or dog an alternative behavior to nipping or jumping.

Safety warning: Be sure to take your cues from your dog. If your dog is becoming more aroused (instead of less so), be sure to call “Red Light” more frequently in order to give dogs and kids sufficient time to regroup. If that doesn’t work it may be time to end the session.  

It is always a good idea to play this game on-leash or with a leash dragging when kids are involved so you can quickly get your dog back under control. At no time should this game involve nipping and teeth. If the dog nips, the game is over. Go back a few training steps before you try again.

If your dog is still misbehaving, try playing the game again at another time when your dog is less excited. It is always best to introduce the game when your dog is already in a calm state. This is a great tool to have in your training tool box for use in real-life situations when your dog’s behavior gets wild.

Red Light Variations
You can incorporate music, making it similar to the game of Freeze Frame. Many people will find that dogs are quick to catch on to the musical version. You can also teach down instead of sit, or play it like Simon Says and alternate between sit and down.

Try playing Red Light as a race from Point A to Point B and back again. 

Try keeping score by awarding points and/or prizes to the kids who stop quickly when you call “Red Light.” This is a great tool for kids under 8 years old. 

For the really savvy kids and well trained dogs, try challenging the kids against the dog. Award points to the player who stops first. If the dog sits before all the kids stop, the dog gets the point.

Utilizing points and prizes is not necessary, but it does help kids remember to stop when dogs get excited in real life situations. 

Remember this a game and games should be fun for everyone. Your dog will benefit the most by ending the game at the height of fun, well before he loses interest.

PS— you don’t  need kids to play!                                                                                                                         Featured image is  former foster dog Peter on the day he met one of his kids. Nancy Freedman-Smith photo.