As a mother of 2 human children (Max & Alex) and 2 canine children (Buddy & Kenai) as well as a "retired" pet care professional and certified coach, I believe I have figured out the problem with kids today…We need to send them to obedience school! I came to this realization when my oldest son started tween barking at me due to a misunderstanding over sleepover plans, and then turned to walk away.
My first reaction was to grab him by the scruff of his neck, but instead, I instinctively reacted like I would with my puppies and blurted out “Max Stay!” Completely shocked, he turned and looked at me at which point I commanded “Come Here!” Which he did. He walked right over to me at the kitchen counter. I didn’t know whether to laugh or keep going (because right around that moment I realized what I had done and was at the point of just seeing how far I could go.) … so, being the good mom, I kept going!
“Sit!” I barked…and Max sat. HA! From that point Max and I had a conversation about the world not spinning on his axis, and we came to an understanding.
Once max left the room, I started thinking about what had just happened and I realized that series of events was nothing short of Canine parenting. It was the same processes we used to turn our crazy, jumping, barking, biting puppies into calm, obedient, joyful companions. Considering that humans are social animals…it all made sense!
Now, I am not suggesting that we as parents should leash our children or bite them back…but I will argue that there is something to be said for the tough love a Momma dog exhibits when she is correcting her young as it relates to the respect and obedience displayed by her puppies in the way they respond to her.
Here are the eight fundamental steps that I wish my momma dog had taught me:
Step one: Nurture, feed and guard your babies. As parents, it is our job to care for, protect and feed our babies until they are grown enough to do it on their own. We do this naturally and most of us do it very well…although for dogs, this responsibility ends at around 2 years old.
Step two: Declare dominance & Command respect. Your child should know from a very young age that YOU are in charge and you make the rules. There is nothing traumatizing about having boundaries, respecting authority and following rules. Those are the things that keep us alive.
Step three: Model appropriate behavior and correct immediately when necessary. Mother dogs hunt in front of their young before they expect them to do it on their own. When pups mess up, they get corrected immediately and then the modeling starts again…it’s an ever teaching loop…and it works!
Step four: Be simple, direct & clear when you speak. Too much talking is confusing, irritating and overwhelming. Did you ever hear a mother wolf guide her young? Growl once, kids listen…Bark once, kids respond! You don't give a 3 minute lecture to your puppy about why he should pee outside or why he shouldn't bite his brother. Keep your expectations and intentions clear and your pups will have no other choice but to know what you are saying.
Step five: Redirect or offer alternatives. What’s the lesson you’re trying to teach “Don’t play”. Or “don’t play with my slipper”? When our puppies grabbed a slipper, we would take it away because it wasn’t for them. But we also knew they either needed to chew or wanted to play, so we gave them what they COULD have and they eventually learned what was acceptable.
Step six: Allow age appropriate adventure, exploration and encourage play. Puppies who are raised on a short leash or in a cage, who are never allowed to explore, run, let out their energy & get into trouble grow up to be undesirable companions. They are prone to be nasty, untrustworthy or lazy. They can either be overly aggressive or painfully shy…either way, the only way to raise a well adjusted pup is to allow them to learn through play as they grow.
Step Seven: Reward compliance and good behavior Everyone knows that puppies will respond better and learn quicker when they are rewarded. Just as excessive or harsh discipline makes for ill tempered dogs, conversely, dogs that run free with no leash or control can get hurt, lost or even killed Thankfully, there is a happy medium that exists where our little ones are given direction, boundaries and responsibilities and then are rewarded for doing good.
Step Eight: The Moms are Bitches...any questions?
Mother dogs don't judge other mother dogs "parenting" unless it is a life threat to the pack. They take care of their own babies and let the other mothers do the same. They don't care if someone else's pups are louder, clumsier, heavier, skinnier, blonde, black or bald...they just care that they are part of the pack. The one task they share is to teach. That they do instinctively and through natural interaction. They defend, support and trust each other, but they don't meddle and you will probably never hear them gossip (except in the movies).
So those are my eight steps to raising great kids. Even though I have been tempted, I have not made it a practice of commanding my boys to sit or stay, although I do reward them for getting the newspaper and collecting the sticks from the yard. So if that is considered teaching them to “Fetch”…I suppose you could just call me the Alpha Bitch.