Friday, September 2, 2011
Attachment parenting a puppy
You know how there are all those child-training books comparing child raising to training a dog? I know Dr. Dobson's done it, and so have the Pearls, in their book. Generally speaking, I say that these comparisons are fallacious. Dogs and people are very different. Dogs are designed -- by us -- to be completely subservient and obedient. With proper training, they become so fairly easily. You just don't see a well-trained dog reaching adulthood and suddenly leaving home to become a Hare Krishna. But "well-trained" children do grow up to do such inexplicable things as that. They do it all the time. Children have a mind of their own, and they eventually crave independence. Dogs are bred and raised to be permanently dependent.
But lately I've been seeing a lot of parallels, as I learn how to train our new puppy, Gilbert. Of course, I would never advocate training a child with a Pavlovian "clicker" and a pocketful of liverwurst. But that doesn't mean there are no similarities.
For instance, you can't train a puppy. That's right: at our dog's tender age of nine weeks, it's impossible to train him. He's just too forgetful and distractible. Instead, we have to redirect him from the shoe he wants to chew on by giving him a bone, and separate him from the baby when he gets too rough.
That doesn't mean we should just let him go wild, though. We need to give him lots of attention to cultivate our relationship, so that he knows that we are his people, and so that later he will respond well to our praise.
As far as potty training goes, we do it by watching him and providing him with lots of opportunities to go in the right place. Apparently the "shove his nose in it" advice doesn't work so well.
Once he's old enough to train, beating him senseless with a belt won't be the way to go about it. That's the way to get an aggressive, fearful dog. Instead, positive reinforcement (treats and praise) are the way to get a dog who happily does amazing tricks -- like this one. (This is the baby's favorite video. We have watched it dozens of times.)
Sounds kind of like what we do to babies, isn't it? While they're young and unfocused, we just provide lots of attention, security, and love. It isn't time for training yet. And when they're older, we focus on the positive more than the negative as much as possible.
And harsh beatings with a belt? Sorry, I just don't see a place for it -- either in dog training or child raising. The way to a confident, eager-to-please adult, whether human or canine, starts with affection and gentleness. There's no easy shortcut.