How Training a Puppy Improved My Parenting

How Training a Puppy Improved My Parenting

Image for article titled How Training a Puppy Improved My Parenting

Photo: Golden Pixels LLC (Shutterstock)

I got a pandemic puppy to complete my pandemic bingo, I joke, after my pandemic divorce and making that whipped-up coffee. I had never had a puppy, so I had to learn how to train her, an 8-month-old rescue with some attachment issues. Meanwhile, I was pandemic parenting two kids post-divorce, so I was navigating those attachment issues, too. What I began noticing was that some of the dog parenting tips sounded a lot like the human parenting tips I was getting from psychologists, parenting books, and podcasts—and that maybe I could use tricks I was getting from dog training to also get better at people training (so to speak).

Dog training

Similar to parenting humans, you can have a style with which you parent your pet. Experts explain that the most effective way to parent your pet is “authoritative,” which means you have high expectations and high responsiveness. If your pet has something they shouldn’t have, you tell them to “drop it.” They don’t. You don’t let it go. You tell them to drop it until they drop it. Then you praise them. The next time you tell them to drop it and they do it on the first try, you give them a big, happy praise response. You expect them to do what you say, and you respond to them doing it.

On the other side, “A dog parent needs to assess the situation when a dog crosses a boundary to find out why the dog behaved the way they did. Dog parents need to make sure that the dog’s needs are being met or if their behavior is the result of something else,” says veterinarian Chryle Bonk. So when my dog asks to go out, she noses at me. I used to ignore her if I was busy, but then she would go pee on the carpet. Instead, I began to take her outside immediately. She no longer pees on my carpet. She expects me to take her out, and she responds by behaving appropriately. I respond to her expectations, and vice versa.

Human parenting

I began to make some small changes in my parenting to align more with this simple strategy. When I say I “train” them, I don’t mean I have a clicker or I use a silly voice and say, “Good boy!” My kids have bigger brains and vocabularies than my dog. I speak to them with respect and hold them to appropriate standards. Here’s what I do:

Increase positive reinforcement

I thought I was a pretty positive parent. But, when I upped my positive reinforcement for both my fur and human babies, I immediately saw a huge improvement in positive behaviors. I thought I was being excessively positive in my praise, but sometimes kids need to hear it, especially kids who have ADHD or other neurodivergent conditions and are more likely to hear negative feedback.

Every time they clear the table, I say thank you. Every time they choose not to hit their sibling on a car ride, I notice how kind they were, even though I should be able to take that one for granted, maybe. When they go out of their way to be kind or helpful, I go out of my way to give them specific, personal praise, not just, “Good job.” 

Never let it go

I know I just said I was going to be more positive, but it’s important to have boundaries, too, and to stick with them, pretty much no matter what. So, if I said we can’t watch a movie until the chores are done but kids are refusing to do the chores, I have to be consistent.

This is the same concept as, “Drop it, drop it, drop it,” with the dog. If it doesn’t get done after a certain amount of time, then there does need to be an appropriate, connected consequence, so they know I will follow through on holding my boundary.

OK, but then let it go

Dogs have very short memories: two minutes, according to National Geographic. Holding a grudge all day against a dog for pooping in the house is pointless because they do not remember what they did wrong. If you catch them pooping, tell them, “no,” clean it up, and move on.

Same with kids. They may be able to remember what they did, but holding a grudge doesn’t do anyone any good, as described by VeryWell Mind. Make amends about whatever it is that went wrong, and then move on. Sometimes, as Ted Lasso says, it’s better to have the memory of a goldfish for the sake of your mental health and your kids’ emotional well-being.

Don’t get in a barking dog’s face

You’d never do that, right? So why do we get in kids’ faces when they’re highly elevated? That’s a good way to get hit by a kid in my house. And, while we never condone violence, honestly, I can’t blame the hitting kid, to an extent. When some kids are very explosive and elevated in their tantrums, anxiety, or meltdowns, they do not need you right in their face, literally or more generally.

Instead, I make sure they know I’m here when they’re ready to be safe with their bodies, I make sure they’re in a safe place, and we wait it out. This is not the time to break out the gentle parenting and wonder together why your child is feeling so mad. Just be there with them until they come back to themselves.

Go to the dog park

We all have a nice time visiting the actual dog park at my house, but also, sometimes getting outside, exercising, or changing our state of being can reset the whole day for my family. Getting a chance to play together after a moment of stress is often all we need to take some space, breathe, and regulate.

Total
0
Shares
Leave a Reply
Previous Article
Is this what good news feels like? • TechCrunch

Special episode: Augmenting creativity with Alice Albrecht from re:collect (Found)

Next Article
There's a Therapist Shortage. 4 Tips to Still Find the Right One for You

There's a Therapist Shortage. 4 Tips to Still Find the Right One for You

Related Posts