Monday, March 3, 2014
Why You Should Own A Dog Before Having Children- Part I
I have always had pets, dogs in particular. My husband had never owned a dog. When we got one together we never realized that a dog is the best precursor to having children we could have had.
We highly recommend to everyone that you get a dog before you decide to become parents. And I do believe that being a parent is something you should decide to do before embarking on this lifelong responsibility. Not everyone has to be a parent and not everyone should be one. But that is a thought for another post. If you are thinking about being a parent here is why you should own a dog first.
While I am a dog person and preferential to them I believe that there are not other common pets that will be the same responsibility level and training ground for you as a dog. A cat can be left alone with food and a litter box for a couple of days, not so with a dog. A dog wants to be with you and needs to be trained and socialized properly; which is not the case for many other pets and these demands on you are exactly what makes a dog a great first step towards parenting.
When you first bring home your furry bundle of joy from the shelter they are cute and wonderful and untarnished; at least until they have their first accident in your house. That is when you realize they don't have a priori knowledge that you expect them to do their business outside and it is your job to teach them. Training a dog is not a one time event. It is a constant work in progress and will take numerous attempts and a lot of patience. You learn a lot about yourself and your partner through this process.
Who reacts calmly to finding the presents left by your new companion? Who can patiently work with your dog over and over until they understand what you expect of them? Which one of you is good at praising and motivating? Which of you is lax about training? Who will be the first to get angry or to give up? These are all the same attributes you will have while parenting your children so if there are huge discrepancies in your styles now is a great time to talk about them and set expectations.
You will learn that being a good parent is as much about training yourself as it is about training your children.
When we first got our dog my husband was the first one to get angry and upset at anything the dog did wrong yet he would not spend the time training and working with our dog. For the first few months we had him the dog would not listen to my husband, not at all. When my husband finally realized the mixed messages he was sending to the dog by being lenient with him and not working on training (setting expectations and giving praise for the good behaviors), hubby started working on how he behaved and viola, the dog started respecting him as a leader and began listening to him.
It is hard to think that you may be the problem not the dog but in most cases it is a little bit of both and self-realization is a lot of work, it's easier to blame the dog. When my husband stopped blaming the dog things got better immediately. But to get to that point we had a lot of discussions about how to raise our new family member and who was putting in all the effort and who was not.
Believe me even after all the lessons learned from our first training experiences with our new dog it is hard for my husband to change. He never read a single parenting book despite all my pleading, coercing, or reminders of dog rearing. At least I knew from our experience with our dog what I was getting into.
But this is just the tip of the proverbial ice berg... Wednesday: Part II