How to Teach Your Dog to Play Red Light, Green Light

By Linda Cole

Training is an essential part of a dog’s education. Teaching basic commands helps you control your pet and keep him safe. Teaching your dog isn’t difficult if you are committed, remain patient and stay consistent. Plus, if you make it into a game, it’s more fun all the way around. Dogs and kids love to play games, and by teaching both of them how to play Red Light, Green Light, you’re showing them how to behave around each other.

One major lesson children can learn from playing the Red Light, Green Light game is how to react to a dog that may be chasing them or jumping up on them during play. It doesn’t take long for a dog to become so excited during play that he ends up nipping at the kids when they’re running around or jumping up on them, all the while barking his love of the game he’s playing. Unfortunately, that’s when it’s time to slow the play down before someone gets hurt. The dog isn’t being bad; he’s just gotten too hyper to continue playing. Another good lesson for kids to learn is what to do when they meet an unfamiliar dog. By playing this game, kids are able to see firsthand how stopping and standing still can make a difference.

Before starting a game of Red light, Green light, your dog should know how to sit on command. But if he still needs to work on that, you can always practice with him during the game. Put a nice supply of CANIDAE dog treats in your pocket and be ready to reward him for sitting during the “freeze frame” part of the game.

The rules of the game are simple and easy for both kids and dogs to learn, but most kids probably already know how to play. Everyone starts out walking or running around the yard. A judge, which should be you to start with, suddenly shouts out “red light.” Everyone stops and freezes in position and the dog should sit down. To help him learn what you want him to do, run or walk with him on leash. As soon as you call out red light, stop and have him sit. Reward him with a treat immediately when he complies. Don’t let him move until you yell “green light.” That’s the signal to release everyone and the game continues.

If running kids proves too tempting for your dog and he isn’t getting the idea, start off slow and have everyone walk. Call out “red light” in shorter intervals to keep control of the game. You can let one of the kids hold the leash and give rewards or you can do it yourself until your dog gets what you want him to do. Call out “red light” and stand still. Give your pet the sit command or wait for him to sit on his own. Don’t release everyone until he sits. This is also a good way to teach him to wait. Keep him sitting until you yell “green light.” If you want him to learn how to sit and wait and want to use a better word when letting him know he can move, instead of calling out “green light” use “Go.”

This is a good game to help your dog learn how to control his excitement, especially around kids, while giving him a way to work off some energy. And it helps kids see how their behavior influences how their dog acts around them. Kids learn how to control and calm down an excited dog. Playing a game is a good way to get your kids involved in dog training and makes the process more enjoyable. Kids and dogs learn better and faster when they are having fun.

Mix up the length of time between your freeze frame and walking or running. If at any time during the game your dog starts to get too excited, nips at the kids, or isn’t paying attention to you, it’s time to end the game. It’s a good idea when playing this game with young kids to leave a leash on your dog so you can quickly get him under control if needed.

Children and dogs of any age can learn how to play Red Light, Green Light, and playing is one of the best ways to bond with a pet. You might be surprised by what your kid and your dog can learn from a simple childhood game.

Top photo by Andy Carter
Bottom photo by Sheila Sund

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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