So, how long has it been since I posted? I’m not even going to try to guess (long enough for the “V” key to fall off my keyboard). I worked my tail off this summer while our pharmacy manager had her 2nd baby, but now that’s about to come to an end because she’s coming back to work. We got a puppy, so in the weeks before bringing him home, we tried to study up.
Ever heard of The Dog Whisperer? It’s a show on the National Geographic Channel (that you don’t get unless you have the ultimately-deluxe-super-awesome-every-channel-on-the-planet package from your cable/satellite provider). It’s a guy named Cesar Millan who is originally from Mexico and lives in CA. On his show, he rehabilitates dogs that have out of control behavior and teach their owners how to maintain calm, yet assertive authority in their home. I’ve seen bits of the show when we’d get a free preview of those “deluxe” channels, so we bought his book – How to Raise the Perfect Dog. And he really does understand dogs and their natural instincts and even how those instincts have adapted to co-existing with humans.
Here’s the big lesson I learned from Cesar:
– Dogs are like children, but dogs are NOT children.
Would you let your child run a-muck in your house while you were gone? Then why would you let your dog? Would you let your dog act a fool in public? Then why would you let your dog? Would you think it was cute when your child disobeyed? Then why do you think that about your dog?
Dogs and children are the same: They need limitations, they need discipline, they need leadership, they need routine, and they need guidance. They are also very smart – they can figure things out on their own (whether it’s learning growth or learning mischief), and they both learn patterns and habits very quickly. High-pitched, squeaky voices, and fast talk make them overexcited (baby talk elicits over-stimulation). Ignoring certain bad behaviors can remedy them faster than giving “correction” for it. Giving attention and praise for the behaviors you want will cause them to be repeated.
Dogs and children are different: Dogs don’t reason, they don’t use logic (they learn patterns). Don’t don’t have long-term memory (“long-term” memory in dogs comes from repetitive habits). Dogs don’t understand English (or whatever language you speak to your dog) – so having a “conversation” with the dog or using sentences as commands is only good for your psychological balance but causes the dog the get overexcited, (according to Cesar, dogs hear words as sounds, so when giving commands 3 words is about the max the dog will remember and obey. Children understand affection in terms of emotions, dogs understand affection in terms of reward (so if you give him affection after he jumps all over the neighbor that came to visit, then you just rewarded him for jumping on people). For most children sight is the most important sense for exploring their world. For dogs, smell is the most important sense – so tell your children to “look” when something new comes along, but tell your dog to “smell”.
So, the best thing you can for your dog (and children) is treat the dog like a dog, and treat your children like children.
I’m sure I’ll learn more as we keep raising Raleigh, but in the first month – that’s a big lesson to learn!