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From SimplyBekah: Bekah’s 25 Tips, Tricks, and Parenting Observations
Tip # 10: “If you plan to get a pet to see if you can parent, please note that the behavior similarities between a toddler and say a dog is best shown in a half crazed Jack Russell Terrier. On crack. 24hrs a day. Can’t find that dog? Stop comparing dog ownership to child rearing then!”

I HAVE THAT DOG!

I read Bekah’s 25 Tips blog the same day we had our first session with the dog trainer which is the same day I realized we should have met with a dog trainer before we had children 22 years ago.

Training a dog is pretty simple (as long as you are not us). It’s all about being the alpha dog. Basically, you follow these steps:

1. Give them the look. Hopefully, the dog will stop the negative behavior upon eye contact.
2. If not, move in their direction.
3. Still no luck, use a verbal cue like “hey.”
4. When all else fails, apply physical pressure.

Please note how there is no mention of negotiating with the dog or asking the dog to “use his words.”

I don’t believe in spanking (which reminds me of another one of Bekah’s tips: Tip # 12 “You want to hear people go batshit crazy? Tell them you don’t ‘believe’ in something they do when it comes to kids. i.e. breastfeeding vs. formula or to immunize or not” ), and I definitely do not condone pulling the Tinker Bell necklace up around your child’s neck and behind her ears (with the clasp under the chin) until she licks or yawns.

However, Tony and I probably should have let our children know who the leaders of the pack were before we found ourselves cleaning up after our son’s college graduation party; scrubbing the sticky red stuff dripping down the back of  _______ (fill in the blank with any item one would find in a college apartment), and using a toothbrush to clean the red sticky stuff that was stuck to the grout in the bathroom he shared with six guys for three years (Bekah has already discovered Magic Eraser – Tip # 17 – so she has 16 years to teach her two year old how to use it before she becomes us).

If we had established ourselves as the alpha dogs (can there really just be one) early on, we would have never ended up in this position: goleta 014

Do you see an able bodied college student anywhere in this picture? Trust me, we are not moving that hideous piece of furniture (yes with red sticky stuff in between the cushions) into our OWN apartment, yet we moved it along with several other heavy items one would not find decorating our home, three times without any help from our marathon running, bungee jumping, river rafting, rock climbing, scuba diving sons who have four working appendages each while Tony and I only have three between us.

And, and this is the clincher, we were downright giddy about it.

If you have found yourself in similar situations, you may have some alpha dog issues. For instance, have you ever played “I spy with my little eye . . .” with yourself in a soft, soothing mommy voice just in case the little guy in the backseat wakes up? Have you ever purchased a plastic toy out of a gumball machine knowing full well that it was going to end up in the vacuum cleaner at the carwash in twenty minutes (you may as well shove a dollar bill up the hose while you are at it)? Have you ever asked your little one to “use his words” only to get the response “angry, angry, angry, angry,” barked repeatedly and loudly so everyone in the restaurant gives you the look? Let’s face it, you are the only person in the room who is not an alpha dog; you need a dog trainer!

Last week, the dog trainer helped us understand how we ended up . . . being the kids.

The most important thing we learned: The dog doesn’t want to be in charge. Having to control everything stresses him out, so he misbehaves (barks for four hours, tries to eat through the door, lunges at small children and old ladies with walkers, says he’s going to a movie, but goes to a party instead – you thought I was talking about the dog?).

Once you realize that your dog will be more relaxed in a calm, submissive state then you no longer need to feel guilty about expecting him to behave in public or pee in an appropriate place (and you can expect him to explain to his friends that the buckets in Erland’s driveway are not for urine, they are to keep people dogs off of his driveway– we would prefer his friends use our bathroom rather than set off Erland’s motion detector lights at 3:00 a.m. because we are really tired of Erland confronting us about our lack of alpha dog skills). Lack of guilt will allow you to mean what you say (can you really live without your dog watching TV for a week? Then don’t say it!) and follow through. Note the bold print, that’s me really helping you out.

Unfortunately, following through is so much work! It’s so much easier to just let him do what he wants, but then we will never be able to leave him home alone without worrying about our house being destroyed. One has to ask one’s self, does one want to do the hard work now or does one want to be scrubbing the bathroom grout of six full grown, hairy dogs when one is old and tired?

Let’s review:

1. A misbehaving, stressed out dog is an unhappy dog. He wants calm, he doesn’t want to be in charge, he needs leadership.

2. The way to let a dog know one is the the alpha dog is to follow these simple steps:

a.  Give them the look (Is your homework done? Raised eyebrows in direction of laptop.).
b.  Move in their direction (Let’s see it. Move toward the laptop.).
c. Use a verbal cue like “hey” (Say “hey,” then point at the inappropriate video on YouTube that is not homework).
d. Apply pressure (“If you do not finish your homework, I’m going to go to Senior English with you tomorrow and hold your hand during the entire class.” Mean what you say.).

3. Follow through.

I forgot the most important part of the training; be relaxed and don’t worry. You can’t just pretend to be relaxed and unworried because unlike you, your dog knows when you are not telling the truth (folks, if your dog isn’t practicing his trumpet on Saturday night while watching reruns of The Gilmore Girls, then he’s at a party consuming something red and sticky).  If you are not relaxed and worry-free, your dog will sense your weakness, he will know you are not in charge, and he will start acting out all of his angst, or as Bekah pointed out act “Half crazed. On crack. 24 hours a day.”

Accomplishing this state of relaxation and worry-freeness is what has Tony and I stumped which, unfortunately, is why our dog has us wrapped around his little paw.

Final Note: If all else fails, teach your dog how to play an instrument and make sure you never let him drop band, or . . . invest in a breathalyzer.