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.