Raising Dogs and Kids: Why There's No Difference
Stubbornness is just determination in an opposite direction. -
Me to my daughter, River, aged 8, after an adult called her "stubborn".
Here we go. A combination post, if you will. A few years ago, I had a friend tease me about my blog. They tried to tell me that all my blog posts are is a bunch of Star Wars memes. I was indignant. They are most definitely not 100% Star Wars memes. However, challenge accepted. Which brings me to my post for today. I recently had a comment left on one of my posts.
I love reading your posts! Can you please write more about your approach to parenting? As a dog mom and toddler mom I need to learn your wisdom, because they all can be a$$holes sometimes and I know it’s bc they suck at being (adult) humans. – Hanna
“Learn my wisdom”? Wisdom…well, that comes from experience. Experience comes from mistakes. Lots of them. I’m always more than willing to share my mistakes, experience and wisdom, but it’s definitely a trifecta. So where we go: insights on what I do with my dogs and my kids. Only, to keep things interesting (and geeky), let’s see what Indian Jones has to say about this.
With regard to my blog, I constantly stress the PAW Method for working with your dog i.e., “Dog Training”, although I hate that phrase. We don’t train kids; why would we train our dogs?
“Hang on lady, we going for ride.” – Short Round
So let’s jump in to how the PAW Method works, and how I apply it to both dogs and my own children.
Piloting: Answering your dog’s/kid’s questions
Activity: Exercise Exorcise the demons
Work: Bored dogs/kids are a scary thing. Keep them mentally sated.
This is a tri-pod, folks. You can’t remove a let and expect it to work. You must make sure you engage in all three aspects every day. Now, let’s go over what that means…starting with Activity.
There are plenty of ways to give your dog the activity they need. Flirt poles are a wonderful addition to your repertoire. No, I guarantee it’s not what you think. Give this post a read, and make your own dog toy guaranteed to exhaust them. Treadmill training, agility (homemade course with just 2 simple jumps), dog parks, play dates, doggie backpacks….those are all great ways to get rid of your dog’s energy. And the less energy they have, the less they can direct your way.
The same goes for children, especially toddlers and preschoolers. They are naturally geared towards movement. When my kids, Eric and River were toddlers/preschoolers, first thing we did every weekend morning was plan out the Exhaustion Factor. How were we going to get these two maniacs into a state of calm? Exercise. First thing we’d do in the wintertime was a 45 minutes at the indoor mall playground. Sometimes just hiking around the mall would work. Garden centers were a beautiful bit of greenery in the winter. Membership to the Cleveland Zoo’s Rain Forest was a great way to tire them out without having to freeze their tiny tushes. We even sprung for a tiny trampoline for the kids when they were little.
The object was to make sure it was never the same thing every day. The trampoline wasn’t out all the time. It was a privilege, not a right. Therefore, whenever I brought it out (roughly once a week), the kids were excited about it enough to play with it till they dropped. We didn’t go to the mall every day, because then it’s just a routine. We needed to keep it fresh.
Summertime and nice days, it was hikes. Sometimes just around the neighborhood, up for ice cream. Or a walk to the local playground. But it was key that,while yes, we brought a wagon with us just in case the kids got tired, they always started by walking. The wagon was for a rest break, not for transportation. It was always expected they would be walking as soon as they had their break. The object of the activity was to make sure they were pleasantly tired, but not physically stressed out. So yes, they walked everywhere if the weather was conducive. So dogs and kids have always had their activity early in the day, setting the tone for the rest of the day. I’ve set them up for success.
Everyone needs a job. Mental work, if you will.
I have always made sure my dogs and my kids had plenty of the right kinds of mental stress. For the dogs: agility, silly tricks, enrichment feeders, or scent work (it’s easier than you think!) are all greats ways to get rid of their need for mental work. At the very least, every day, my dogs eat their meals out of an enrichment toy. Most days we go above and beyond that. They always had toys out to play with, especially when they were young, but only 1/3 of the total amount I own were left out at any given time. In other words, swap out your dog’s toys frequently. Most likely your dog doesn’t need new toys: he needs to be separated from most of his toys for a spell. And then, like magic, what’s old is new again. With dogs under a year, I typically switch out available toys at least 2x a day. This helps to keep them engaged with appropriate items, rather than chewing the chair leg.
The same principle has always been applied towards my children. Chores are a big one in my house. My kids have been doing dishes since they were about 3 years old. Not well. I knew I was re-washing all those dishes afterwards, but the expectation of doing a job to the best of their ability has always been ingrained into my children. I simply will not accept less than the best they can do. Weekends my kids were expected to really pitch in: by 4 years old, assigned jobs tended to be vacuuming, cleaning the baseboards, laundry, etc. In other words, these are all age-appropriate jobs for preschoolers, and they did the job, albeit not as well as I would. But this isn’t a sprint: it’s a marathon. So yes, doing dishes with my 3-year old could be tedious sometimes, but by 5 they could be relied on to do a good job.
Nowadays, my kids are 12 and 14. I can have dog training sessions all day on a Saturday, and come home to vacuumed and mopped floors, and all the laundry done in the house. These things have been expected for so many years now, it’s about as normal a part of the day as having dinner together.
Of course, I don’t rely on just chores for mental work. Books were a huge factor. Playing games with them, but also making sure they understood that I was not their sole source of entertainment. Occupy yourself, or if you can’t, here’s another chore you can help me with so I have more time to play with you. Most of the time, they chose to learn to occupy themselves to avoid extra chores.
And while we didn’t have a tv in our house until the kids were about 9 and 11, they did watch shows. Specific shows, not just idly switching channels. We had a specific time we’d look up Wonder Pets episodes on YouTube, or play the favorite Little Einstein dvd. Sometimes it was a treat for an extra-great job doing dishes. Sometimes it was so I didn’t lose my mind. Because Mommy needs a break!
Come up with a recipe box of mentally engaging activities for both your dogs and your kids. Bonus points for things they can do together (like agility – great for kids and dogs). Pretty soon when your kids state they’re bored, you can direct them to the box of activities. Read a Dr. Suess book from back to front, write your alphabet using different colored crayon for each letter, etc. were all a part of my “enrichment” recipe box for my kids when they were bored. They’d be directed towards the box to find something to do. If they couldn’t find something there to satisfy them, there was always the chores recipe box. Usually my kids would self-entertain from the enrichment recipe box.
Okay, I’ve saved the best for last. Piloting is merely answering your dog’s/kid’s questions. Dogs and kids ask a lot of questions, but not all of them are vocalized.
Your dog stealing food from the counter: “Can I eat this?
”Fido pulling on the leash: “Can I lead on this walk?”
Your spawn kids tearing around inside the house: “Is this acceptable in the house?”
Little Jimmy hits his sister: “Is this how I get the toy I wanted?”
Obviously these are questions that need to be answered. I guarantee this is the part where you are all struggling with both your dogs and your kids. I see it all the time: I come into a training session to work with an unruly dog, but the parents can’t even work with their own kids. Kids yelling, shouting, interrupting, and being openly hostile to their parents.
Mom: Sarah, but your toys away. Sarah: I don’t want to!