After four months of dog ownership, I am sure of one thing: getting a dog does not automatically make one a dog person. I give you Exhibit A: Marshmallow.
Yeah, she’s cute, whatever. While walking her in the pre-dawn these past few months, I have heard from people far more “dog person” than I that I “must be taking tons of pictures.” Uh, no. The last picture I took of Marshmallow? According to iPhoto it was eleven weeks ago, and it’s really a picture of my child in which the dog happens to appear. (The above photo was taken by a friend of a friend whom I have never met but who is, apparently, a dog person, since she is taking photos of a dog not even hers.)
One dog lover actually suggested to me that I take Marshmallow’s picture in the same place every day, and then do a hallway panorama of her absolutely adorable growth. For just a moment, I felt guilty that I had been doing nothing of the kind- until I remembered that there was no such record of the growth of my children, either, and no one had called Protective Services on me yet.
This has been the one rule that has saved my sanity during the daily trials of puppy ownership: do nothing for a baby animal that I had not done for my baby humans.
When one “expert” told me I couldn’t possibly make the puppy sleep down the hall in an confined environment, I reminded myself that all three of my babies had done no less.
When another told me to reject heartworm pills as the work of some veterinary devil, I reminded myself that I had heard these same arguments with my fully-vaccinated children.
So no, I won’t walk her twice an hour and bathe her in pressed lavender water. No, I won’t take her picture every single day.
I’m not saying that it’s not a fully valid choice to co-sleep with your baby, or to delay vaccinations. But if I have learned anything from ten years of parenting, it is that five experts will give you five opinions, and when you toss them all out the window and do what works right for you, that’s when you’ll start living. So we’ve been winging this puppy thing, and while there are a few more presents on the carpet than I’d like, she can “sit” and “stay” and I have managed to keep my “when did I get like this” moments to a handful.
But if my childrearing experience has caused me to cast a gimlet eye upon the Dog Whisperers of our world, those same canine experts have cast new light on a few ways my parenting of humans might yet be improved. “Down,” my husband was saying to Marshmallow last night. “Down, I said. Get down.”
“You can’t do that,” I scolded, suddenly channeling Cesar Millan. “You give a dog a command just once. If you repeat it like that, you’re teaching her that THAT is the command, and then she’ll never listen.”
“Kind of like our kids?” he retorted.
Touché. It seems that my children think “Brush your teeth brush your teeth I said GO BRUSH YOUR TEETH” is the absolute minimum requiring any sort of response, and even that with a great roll of the eyes and an “I heard you the first time,” which is enough to send me around the bend.
But they better watch out, because starting tonight, I’m going to take a page from the Canine Catechism:
- Give the command once, and only once. (Once is enough when you are the alpha dog.)
- Don’t give the cue when disobedience is an option. When training a dog, don’t tell her to “come” unless you can give a leash a tug to make it happen, if necessary. (If I’m yelling “brush your teeth!” at my kids- while they are wrestling in their room- disobedience is way too easy.)
- If the command is not obeyed, gently but firmly place the dog into the correct position. (To do this, it seems I’m supposed to call my kids to the bathroom, THEN tell them to brush their teeth. This kind of sucks- I prefer to yell it from the couch where I’m figuring out what I want to watch after they go to sleep- but I have to admit that approach has a high failure rate.)
- Give lavish praise when command is obeyed. (“What a good fourth grader! You brushed your teeth like your Mommy said!”)
I’ll let you know how it goes.
What has pet ownership taught you about parenting the human sort?