It’s not the same, but it’s not all that different either.
Yes, that’s not exactly the most profound sentence ever written, actually it’s quite embarrassing to see it in print, but it’s what I think when I compare dogs and kids.
It’s often said bringing a puppy into your life is good training for raising a child. I think I agree with that, in general, but there are so many obvious differences that make it seem silly to say having a dog prepares one for having a kid. Nonetheless, in my case, I think it may have just done that.
My family includes two dogs, Fletch, a 10-year-old yellow Lab, and Bailey, a 5-year-old black Lab. They have been with me since they were each 8 weeks old. Although this parenting thing remains a work in progress for me, as I learn something new every day, I do feel like an expert when it comes to dogs.
Certainly, having two dogs from the puppy stages on teaches the basics of responsibility and accountability, but it had never really occurred to me there might be more similarities than I realized between puppies and young kids. That was until the other morning when I found myself on bended knee, asking my son repeatedly to sit in his chair before I handed over his morning milk.
The conversation between my increasingly independent-minded (stubborn) little one and myself went something like the following.
Me: Beckett, sit in your chair, please …
Beckett: [Walking in circles] No, no, no …
Me: Sit please …
Beckett: [Standing still and staring straight at me] No, no, no …
Me: [In my best imitation of a stern man] Okay, no milk then …
Beckett: [A stammering of meltdown sounds while yanking on my shorts] No, no, no …
Me: [Pointing to chair in a worthless exchange of hand motions] Sit please…
I will spare you the rest of the silly transcription. Finally after a battle of wills played out in the living room, he did sit in his chair and I gave him his sippie cup. As I found myself telling my 15-month-old to sit repeatedly, I could not help but think back to being on bended knee many times teaching my then-puppies to sit. I had to laugh when I looked across the room at my four-legged boys. There they were sitting at attention, wagging their tales and surely wondering where their treat was for their good work.
In between pulling Beckett out from underneath the kitchen table and stopping him from climbing headfirst into the refrigerator, I started thinking back on what was going on in my life now with a toddler compared to what it was like when my dogs were puppies.
Along with the responsibility and accountability that comes with caring for someone or something, I do believe being a “puppy dad” provided a good training ground for a “kid dad” in that it makes you aware you cannot be selfish. Don’t get me wrong you can be egocentric and be a parent. After all, anyone be a parent. All you need is the right equipment. However, it takes a lot to be a good parent and it all starts with being unselfish.
With those thoughts in mind, I jotted down a few similarities and differences between being a dog owner and a parent the other day. Here’s some thoughts:
— If you tire them out, life is always better. One of my treasured moments in the house these days is when the dogs are sprawled out on the floor exhausted and my son is upstairs in his crib asleep. To get to that point, they all have to be active. A good tennis ball and a lot of yard works for the dogs. Just allowing him to run loose on his own amidst his toys in a room works for Beckett.
— Dogs and kids are creatures of habit. Neither of them needs a watch to tell them when it’s time to do something. The dogs know when it’s time to eat or to go outside and when I go to work, and they have the moods to match each turn of events. Beckett, too, has a full understanding of when it’s time for a drink, meal, bath or sleep. He’s all about the routine, and we do everything we can to keep him on it, so long as it’s working.
— Both have a way of letting you know when they are not happy. Beckett wears his emotions on his proverbial sleeve, and the dogs essentially do the same thing.
— To have an “adult” night, there’s no need to work on a babysitter days in advance for the dogs. If we know of a weekend night we want to go out, we usually start first thing Monday morning trying to line up a sitter.
— Dogs, even as puppies, can go outside by themselves so long as the area is fenced in. That’s obviously not the case with our child. He can’t even be left alone in a room for more than a minute. He’s become quite adept at opening doors and moving gates on his own and has a penchant for the escape. He also likes to redecorate by moving furniture all over the place.
— Puppies will eat furniture and do their business in the house on occasion. A toddler will not usually chew on furniture, but he might run into it in full sprint, breaking a light in the progress. He will not do his business all over the house, but there are instances when a dirty diaper can make it seem like it.
About a week or so after this “sit” revelation mentioned earlier, it seems practice has made perfect. All Beckett has to do now is see the milk or juice come out of the fridge and he sprints over to his chair and waits, although not exactly patiently. It’s similar to what happens when I bring out a milk bone for my dogs. I guess that should be added to the similarities list.