As both a pet owner (2 dogs – a 4 year old male Golden Retriever and a 3 year old female Labrador) and a new parent (7 month old little boy) I am really amazed at the similarities between raising a pet and raising a child.
Many people will say that dogs are dogs and kids are kids but in actual fact, they are both young animals that require exercise, discipline and affection (as Cesar Milan always says) from their parents/owners in order to go grow up as balanced individuals.
Obviously some aspects of raising a pet are different to raising a child (especially when the children get a bit older), but the principles are the same. A child/dog who is allowed free rein of the house will turn into a spoilt brat as they have no boundaries to adhere to. Without boundaries how do they learn what is acceptable behaviour and what is not?
If anyone has watched both the TV shows Supernanny and The Dog Whisperer, you will notice that nearly every problem on both shows is caused by the parent/owner of the kids/animals, rather than the kids/animals themselves. Jo and Cesar spend more time on their shows educating the parents/owners than actually dealing with the child/dog themselves.
For those who don’t believe me, tune into the Dog Whisperer (Nat Geographic channel) and watch how Cesar handles problem animals. He is always calm and assertive, brings a positive energy to every situation and remains calm at all times. Isn’t this something that as parents we should all strive to follow? Sure it’s hard when your little one throws a screaming tantrum at Woolies, but getting angry and upset yourself just makes things worse. The same can be said for any problem situation that may arise with your children. If you are calm assertive it makes the situation much easier to deal with.
Another major factor that Cesar drills into the dog owners is the fact that they have to follow through when they want their dogs to do something. How many times have you asked your child to pack up their toys, only to see them strewn around the room an hour later? Do you follow your child around at mealtimes trying to get them to eat? Why do you think this happening?
Well the simple answer is that you never followed through in getting them to tidy up their toys or sit at the table at mealtimes right from the start. Every time you tell them to do it and they don’t, and you don’t enforce what you want done, it becomes the norm for them to refuse to do it. They get the upper hand. And as well all know getting them to change their ways once they have the upper hand is extremely difficult and will result in a lot of tears and unhappiness before the ultimate goal is achieved. If you had just enforced what you wanted from them the first few times you asked, these problems would be behind you.
One major thing Cesar asks all the dog owners to do is to exercise their pets every day. Do we all do this with our children or do we plonk them in front of the TV when we want to take some time out for ourselves? For dogs it is extremely important to exercise them on a daily basis else they get frustrated and start acting up. Sound familiar? The same is true of your child. Children want to explore the world, play outdoors and just run around like mad things. If we don’t let them do this at least once a day their frustration starts to build, they do not sleep well and they start acting up. Yes it’s tough in this hurly burly world to take time out every day to play/exercise with your child but it needs to be done regardless.
Of course giving affection is a given for both dogs and children, but what’s important is giving it at the right time. Do you pick your child up and cuddle them every time they cry or scream? Every time they throw a tantrum? Giving affection at the wrong times really reinforces bad behaviour, while giving it when it is really needed (like after a fall, or accident) or when your child is calm and happy really reinforces the love you have for your child.
In conclusion then, we could all improve our parenting skills if we stuck to some dog training basics in the early years. Setting boundaries, following through (discipline), giving affection at the right time and staying calm assertive in any situation will have a really positive effect on your child and on you as a parent (and pack leader!).
Try it, it works!