Teaching your dog and toddler a healthy T-ball game is a great bonding exercise for your family. When kids and dogs play together, the goal is to keep the dog in a state of mind where the focus is not on the child running or being active, but instead, they can channel that drive to a specific exercise. We never want the dog chasing a child running because we all know how that turns out! Somebody will end up crying, even if it were just an accidental bumping. You want the dog to be more focused on chasing a ball because that is more manageable.
Here are the steps to teach this exercise and get the entire family out for a ball game. The first 3 steps are with the dog only!
Step 1: Your dog should know a retrieve command. If a dog has a natural retrieve drive, then genetically, they have the desire to want to chase and retrieve an object. This drive is dependent on your dog. If your dog has issues releasing a toy or plays keep away, you will have to teach your dog the rules of retrieve. You can also help build a retrieve drive with a young puppy. Here are some videos that can help guide you both through the game of fetch:
An older dog with the drive to play but likes to possess the toy:
A puppy learning the foundations of retrieve:
Step 2: Order your T-ball set! The below link is the set that I use:
The set comes with 3 plastic balls. Use these balls to retrieve with your dog. I load a ball on the stand of the t ball set and throw another one. When the dog returns with the first ball, then set the extra ball on the stand. Keep repeating using all 3 balls but rotating them. Your dog should start returning to the area of the T-Ball stand where you ask for an “out” command. Some dogs might start automatically outing in anticipation of the next ball thrown. Do not through the next ball until the dog has released the current ball.
Step 3: Start hitting the ball with the bat. The same rules apply as above. The dog most likely will investigate the bat, which is normal. You can let them sniff it. Some dogs will react to the noise at first of the bat hitting the ball. This sound quickly becomes exciting because they pair the noise with anticipation of chasing the next ball. Here is a video demo of this:
Step 4: Now is the time for the toddler’s lessons! Teach your toddler how to hit the ball and place the extra balls on the stand. Once they get the hang of this, then you are ready to bring the dog into the picture. Before the dog comes into the picture, use this time to make rules around the game, such as no hitting the dog with the bat, hitting the balls if they are on the ground, and no chasing the balls after you hit them. That is the dog’s job.
Step 5: Bring the dog into the picture with your toddler and overlook the game between the two of them. Remember not to hit the next ball until the other the dog brings the first ball back to the T-Ball Stand. Here is a video demo of this exercise:
I hope you enjoy this new game as much as my toddlers and dogs do! For more blogs about kids and dogs, visit our website.