Do you want the type of well-behaved children that you can take anywhere, who garner compliments and approving smiles from others? Children and dogs have many similarities, but I also cringe when some pet owners confuse the two. You wouldn’t train your child to pee in the yard and eat from a bowl on the floor! Which one are you?
THE FIRM BUT FAIR NANNY: I had a client who surprised me- she was a natural with handling and training her dog. She was both fair and effective. I asked her had she ever trained dogs before? She responded “No, but I am a nanny.” Wow! The same boundaries you set to keep multiple children in line are similar to handling a dog. I did not have to explain the dynamics of learning theory, being a leader, or why discipline was necessary, she already had it down pat. Her children were polite and well-adjusted. They played amongst themselves during our lessons. If they got too loud or strayed too far out of the room, her simple directives were followed without protest. Having an authoritative, yet responsive attitude is the best way to raise your dog.
THE INDULGER: It is those personalities that tend to indulge, that have a “laissez-faire” attitude, that often have issues. They give all the good rewards that are necessary for motivation, but for the wrong reasons. It’s like a divorced parent who spoils their child out of guilt. If you find it’s easy to bribe your child and often indulge them if they have a fit, you may have a tough time handling a dog. If you feel it’s a good idea for a child to spearhead their own lives and make all their own choices, that is fine, but I will let you know that won’t work out so well with your dog. Neither one of you will be happy. You can’t talk and reason with your dog- you will need to learn a different style in communicating with your dog, by showing them which actions will lead to good things, and which ones won’t. Not by giving them everything when they haven’t earned it.
THE BRUTE: Another parenting style that tends to fail is the overly authoritarian “do it now or else,” who does not take the time to teach what’s wanted before going straight to punishments. Their style of parenting is full of threats, yelling, and double-standards. Any sign of disobedience is taken as a personal offense. The dog makes a mistake and suddenly it’s personal, “He’s DEFYING me!” Well not always, see the big picture. Not everything is “defiance.” They make make mountains out of molehills, taking something small as a huge offense. The way they handle their dog may depend on their mood that day- good mood or bad. This confuses the dog and leads to more problems. Consistency is important.
THE HELICOPTER/OVER-ANALYZER: Called such because they are always hovering close. They “overparent.” Think of a parent who would wrap their child in bubble wrap if they could, just to protect them. These pet owners watch and over-analyze everything their pet does, and may over-react to normal things. Like a new parent, they worry about everything. A tiny nick on the leg from playing, and they’re at the vets office for antibiotics, swearing Fido will never play again. “Maybe he is jealous, maybe he was abused in a past life… what is he thinking, what am I doing wrong?” Calm down, and stop playing Freud. Dog training is not rocket science, and sometimes you can “overthink” it. It will help them to learn what is normal behavior for a dog. Let go a little- sometimes you have to let your dog be a dog!
THE OVER-ACHIEVER: Obsessed with success and perfection. Their child is a newborn and they are already planning which college he or she will go to. This pet owner has an 8-week old puppy and expects perfect behavior and housebreaking. They want obedience training, no accidents in the house, and they want it now! While I appreciate how proactive this type of person is, you can’t learn Greek before you’ve even learned your ABC’s. Slow down, it takes time and patience.
Recognize the similarities and differences between raising your dog and raising your child:
Children and dogs both:
- Require LOVE
- Develop their own personalities and traits
- Require teaching (aka training)
- Require discipline and boundaries- including saying no sometimes!
- Show emotions of joy, sadness, etc.
- Have to be “potty trained”
- Love to play and wrestle…
- You can reason and explain things (this is a great way to deal with kids, not so much with a dog)
- You can explain future consequences (if you don’t clean your room, you won’t get ice cream tomorrow!)
- Speak English or other spoken word
- Can be crated and potty outside
- Speak their own language of dog signals
- Live in a “here and now” world
Both dogs and children have another common trait- if you give them an inch, they will take a mile. Dogs are opportunistic. If you leave a pizza out, it might just be gone the next minute. If you wait until your dog is an adult to train them, it just might be harder to break those bad habits. Both child-rearing and dog training require creative and practical solutions, all of which involve the pet parent’s active participation.