This post is going to focus on how you can use common everyday activities to help develop your child’s communication skills. Today’s blog is focused on playing with your dog! This is an activity that is fun and engaging and can involve many people. Have a look at how playing with your dog can support your child’s communication skills:

Activity Ideas:

  • Fetch
  • Obstacle Course/Agility
  • Trick Training
  • Hide & Seek
  • Tug of War
  • Mindfulness
  • Story Time


  • Playing with your dog can support the development of your child’s descriptive language vocabulary as they describe what their dog is doing (‘he’s jumping on me!’, ‘she is wagging her tail’), how they feel (‘he is so soft’, ‘she is all dirty’ ‘he is so strong!’), and what they look like (‘He is bigger than me!’, ‘She is white with black spots’, ‘she has floppy ears’)
  • Build everyday vocabulary of body parts and clothing (E.g tummy, legs, teeth, ears, collar, jacket)

Expressive language

  • Encourage your child to think of a game they can play (e.g. fetch, obstacle course), and explain the rules to you– encourage use of long sentences with conjunctions (e.g. and, then, after), and conditional words (e.g. if)
  • If playing a game of Hide & Seek, encourage your child to provide verbal clues for your dog to find the treat or toy (E.g. ‘Walk down the hallway and look under the bed’ with a gestural cue for the dog to follow).
  • Build on counting skills- for example, during a game of fetch you could ask your child to count the number of steps or seconds the dog takes to catch the ball, OR within an obstacle course, ask your child to count the number of obstacles.

Understanding language

  • If you develop a game, your child will need to learn the rules of the game: break parts of the game to manageable steps. You may like to write down some rules/instructions.
  • Answering questions- you could ask your child to watch your dog play and ask relevant questions (e.g. ‘What do you think Buddy is thinking while he chases his toy?’)
  • Within an obstacle course or trick training, you might like to give your child some simple/complex directions (e.g. ‘First take Buddy over the jump and then through the blue hoop’, ‘Before you ask Buddy to sit, ask him to spin’)


  • Your child might like to read your dog a story! Encourage reading strategies such as breaking down tricky words into sounds. Studies show that reading to a dog can reduce stress, increase attention and motivation.
  • Make up a story about your dog (e.g. the Adventures of _____ and _____), with a focus on developing literacy skills.

Social skills

  • You can model appropriate play skills – e.g. winning/losing statements, turn taking
  • Remembering rules and following them – remind your child about certain rules and to follow them while playing
  • If your child demonstrates inappropriate play skills, talk through the possible consequences of these behaviours (e.g. when you scream, Buddy steps away, but if you are calm, Buddy wants to stay close to you)
  • Encourage your child to observe the dog’s social cues (e.g. tail wagging, barking if excited or scared, hiding if stressed, slowed breathing when calm/fast breathing when excited or scared), and compare these with our own nonverbal communication cues.
  • Talk through calming strategies and how these are similar/different from people to dogs (e.g. mindfulness, patting the dog or asking it to lie down, deep breaths, going for a walk)

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