Sunday, April 19, 2015

Home2K9 Helpful Hint: Is your dog your baby?

If your dog is your "baby," then why aren't you treating them like one?

This Hint is intended to undo all that shame you've been receiving about how you should NOT treat your dog like a child, because the way I see it, children are a TON of work and dogs should be viewed in EXACTLY the same way.

So often I hear owners say "but he's my baby," when talking about their dog. What they really mean is that they feel emotionally about their dog the way a parent feels for their child, but they often fail to correlate the work, shaping, tough love, and consistency required in both cases. They want to love, nurture, hold, and feel central to their dog's universe, but then enjoy the ease of leaving him at home when fun time calls, or going to bed early because Fido "can just go in his crate." If you really saw your pup as your baby you would invest uncomfortable amounts of time and energy into their health and well-being (mental and physical), and you would feel the drain of showing up to meet those needs on days when it simply isn't fun or convenient.

Parents of babies understand that you can't simply feed a baby then put it in a box and expect it to grow up healthy, educated, and well balanced. Dog "parents" need to honor that this is not a realistic outcome for a dog either, our dogs require intentional, educated, commitment that transcends any tiredness or sense of "but it's not fun to walk in the rain." Babies require time, attention, focus, and variety as they move through the world in order to be connected, thoughtful, and skilled. If you're a working parent you know that you must come home from work and still interact with your child even if you're tired or stressed. Meal time with a baby isn't just a bowl of slop placed in front him/her while mom or dad head back to watch TV, it's an interactive time of learning, connecting and creating value in a relationship. You serve your dog a meal at least twice a day, this is precious time to teach, bond, mold and shape just the same. Your dog has been home waiting for you to interact with him/her, to show them something new, to develop meaningful life skills, now is your time to show up and truly parent.

Parenting is far harder than any other job, and I have not had children because I know it doesn't afford me the same freedoms as that of being a dog owner. I do know, however, that cutting corners in your dog training and raising, is not unlike cutting corners as a parent of children- you get issues. Issues of neglect produce frustration, lack of stability, underdeveloped impulse control, bad manners, disrespect of boundaries... the list goes on. If you've ever been around a spoiled or neglected child, one whose parent isn't paying attention or taking the time to teach, your experience was likely that of irritation, annoyance, and a desire to get outta there as soon as possible. Nobody wants to be around a dog displaying the same sort of symptoms that result from imbalance, entitlement, or neglect.

If your dog is your baby, treat them as such. Do the hard work of providing your time, energy, attention, and tough love even when it's inconvenient or unfun. Set boundaries, expect manners, hold them accountable, and equip them with the skills they need to SUCCEED. Just like if he/she were your child, get to know them and allow them to be the individual they are. Not all children seek or enjoy lots of physical affection, some children aren't super social, while others may crave action and friend time more than others. Dogs are the same. Different shapes and sizes, different needs and struggles. Dogs are not meant to be our emotional crutch or play thing any more than our babies are, and just like babies, they each demand and deserve our efforts to support who they are, and what they need.

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