Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I am a dog parent.

I have come to the awkward conclusion that most of my parenting theories are based on dog training.


But I mean. Prevention and consistency are basically the keys to a well-trained dog.

Don't want him to eat the trash? Don't leave the trash out where he can get it. Because he will never, ever, ever understand why he's not allowed to help himself to the smorgasbord of awesome that resides in that can. He will learn not to do it when you're watching. But as soon as you're gone, all bets are off. That's prevention.

And consistency. If you want to train your dog to sit before he's fed, never feed him without making him sit first. Always use the same command word and/or gesture. If you don't want him to jump up on people or sit on the couch, don't ever let him do it. Dogs don't understand "sometimes" or "with this person only" (well, they do get that one a bit, but not as well as my husband thinks they do) or "special occasion." They just know "do" or "do not do."

(And with the couches, if you think they're not sitting up there anyway when you leave, you're kidding yourself. Unless you prevent the behavior by physically removing them from the couch area with a gate or crate.)

Consistency applies to tone of voice, too. Dogs know to tune you out when you're using conversational tones or sweet-talking tones. They know to pay attention when you use your firm, I'm-talking-to-you,-dog tone. It helps if you say their name first and establish eye contact.

So, like, child-rearing is basically that plus talking, right? Because eventually children, unlike dogs, do come to understand "sometimes" and reasons, and they eventually can (and must!) make their own choices.

I mean, toddlers and dogs are pretty much the same thing. Right? They make noise and poop on stuff and eat things they're not supposed to eat.

Prevention, consistency, and cuddles. Sounds good to me.

Who was it that said I know only that I do not know? Yeah...that's me and parenting, obviously.

Disclaimer one: Please don't report me to DHS. I'm joking, I promise. Sort of.

Disclaimer two: The more I thought about this, the more I realized I could go on with the comparisons: the importance of building a trust relationship, motivating out of love and respect rather than fear, the effect of physical state on mental state, understanding individual personalities, working within the parameters of capabilities (i.e. a dog is not and never will be a human; a two-year-old does not have the same capabilities as a three-year-old, etc.).

But obviously dogs are not actually even human and never will be, whereas children are and will eventually become reasoning (and we hope reasonable) adults--even a toddler is capable of greater understanding and reasoning than the smartest dog, if only because a toddler has language of a sort, which a dog does not.

Anyway. I'm very cautious about saying I know anything, since all my experience with parenting is from every role BUT that of a parent, and obviously that role is completely different from the roles of child, educator, temporary caretaker, and student-of-behavioral-psychology-and-development. Still, it's nice to think that maybe my role as dog-parent has taught me a useful lesson or two for life with human Critter.


  1. Sounds good to me! You can't set a dog/cat/baby up to fail (accidentally or on purpose) and then get mad when it fails, pfft!

    Oddly enough JM and I were just talking about this sort of thing yesterday and I was like, once my kids are old enough to understand reason then I'm just going to parent by logic and choices. "You can clean your room tonight, or you can spend the next two hours in timeout and clean your room tomorrow." And, both of those choices are perfectly valid; it would be fine with me (though I might worry about their IQ a bit) if they chose the latter... "You can put on PJs and then brush your teeth before you go to bed, or you can brush your teeth first."

    I thought I had just made this up cuz I'm super analytical and logical and kids should be able to understand cause and effect, but apparently it's called Love And Logic parenting and is totally a thing. Who knew?!

    1. Yeah, that occurred to me yesterday because (against my own advice) I kept yelling at the dogs not to drink the rainwater pooled in a mat on the back porch instead of getting up and dumping it out so there would be nothing for them to drink. Oops.

      Unfortunately, children (and dogs) occasionally decide on a third option, called I'll-just-sit-here-and-scream-or-run-away-from-you-and-neither-clean-my-room-nor-go-in-timeout. So that's where it gets tricky, because you're not allowed to smack them on the nose and forcibly shove them in a crate until they behave. Alas.

      There are all sorts of parenting techniques. You can go crazy reading about them. But I guess until we actually have our own kids to practice on, it's hard to know what will actually be effective.

    2. Yeah that's fair. The whole "this or that" thing could just blow up if they decided to throw a tantrum, but we'll just have to wait and see I guess! :-)