Archive for the ‘dogs’ category

Taking care of something else is good for the soul

April 25, 2011
Taking care of pets is an excellent chore for children. Children and pets teach self-discipline because pets need daily care. Taking care of pets teaches children responsibility because it must be done every day, whether they feel like it or not. Here, my husband and teenage daughter are washing the dog. They're also learning teamwork here. The water is SO COLD when they rinse her off.
Gonzo the dog gets a good cleaning from a father-daughter team.

Gardening can be good for the soul according to research reported by the Boston Globe today. Scientists figured out that digging in the dirt, planting seeds, weeding and even watering a jade plant is good for young and old patients in a hospital.

I think the patients feel better because they’re doing something worthwhile. Most people in hospitals are receiving treatment. They’re passive. They don’t do anything for anyone else. Gardening gets them out of that rut.
Gardening provides a plethora of regular chores, as does pet care. A human being must keep plants and pets alive or else they will die. Call it chores, jobs, work, gardening or pet care. Call it anything you like. Just set up a system for your children — starting as early as age 2 — to contribute to the greater good of the family.
Have a family meeting. Make a list of everything you do around the house and have them do the same. Compare the two lists of very different lengths! Ask the youngsters what they would like to do around the house to get some of the chores off your list and onto theirs.
Get someone to take notes. Record the jobs the children volunteer for, and post it on the refrigerator. Make sure you ask them by what time and date they will complete the jobs. Then parents must follow through with as few words and NO nagging. Point to the job that needs doing. Leave notes — “This toilet stinks.” Ask questions. Take action or don’t act.
For example, if a child neglects to set the table after one request, put the meal down on the table, sit down and wait for the utensils and plates to appear. If a child neglects to feed the dog after a question, “Did you feed Gonzo today?” Say without sarcasm, “Gonzo must be awfully hungry today.” And leave it at that.
Act, don’t yak (source: Dr. Sam Goldstein). These three words are useful in many areas of parenting.  Get off your duff and take action. Restrain or remove. Parents have the responsibility to teach accountability. It’s not easy. It takes time, patience and follow through using the magic of kindness and firmness.

Use the crate when dogs and kids make bad choices

January 17, 2011
This is Lily in her crate, which she likes because she is contained. She gets a break. The crate is like a playpen -- it's safe place to go where you can play and not get into trouble. You can lie down take a nap and no one will bother you. You know what is expected of you. It can be a relief to go in there because it limits your choices. It's safe. Dog Crates and baby playpens are useful when TRaining Dogs and children to behave and to learn discipline. Toddlers, preschoolers, school-age, tweens, and teens can benefit from the "playpen" of their rooms. They can feel safe and contained. Sometimes they need to be restrained and have some time to think about their behavior. Sometimes parents need a break.

Lily goes to her crate voluntarily. It's like a playpen for a toddler or a teen's room. It's her space, a place no one can bother her, and she's safe. A crate is a wonderful place for a puppy.

I believe in using containment when training dogs and children. When Lily the puppy chews on a plant, I crate her with a chew toy. When a toddler puts a fork in an outlet, he goes into the playpen.  “Act, don’t Yak!”  [Dr. Sam Goldstein]  Dogs and children of all ages respond to action. They tune out lectures.

Dogs and tots-to-teens can benefit from containment in a crate, playpen or bedroom. They feel safe in their space. It provides contemplation time for parents and young people.

Even though I shepherded four teenagers through adolescence, I never grounded them as punishment. I did shorten their leash when they made poor choices. I didn’t let them use my car except to get to work.  I said, “You can have your friends over here while I am home” or “You can stay home with us tonight and watch ‘Lassie’ ” or another G-rated movie.

The trouble with grounding and using violent punishment to train a dog or child —  like yelling, berating, belittling and hitting  — is that it breeds revenge, resentment and rebellion. It shows children and dogs that bullying works to get others to do what you want. I used to think children had to feel pain and be punished to learn. I was wrong. They have to feel consequences to learn, but they don’t have to be violent.

Positive discipline always looks for the three Rs — related-respectful-reasonable  [Jane Nelsen Ph.D.] — in a natural or logical consequence. It works for dogs and humans. When Lily doesn’t come when she’s called, she gets put on the leash because she has demonstrated she can’t be trusted.

When young people show they can’t be trusted, their leash gets shortened. They must stay closer to home, in their room or playpen, where they can re-group and feel contained.

Dogs and kids both respond to encouragement, kindness, firmness and consistency. Children and dogs both want to please. When parents bully, children and dogs become bitter and mean. Then they feel hurt and want to hurt back their parents. They can become bullies and/or victims.

When Lily makes a good decision, I shower her with “good dog!” and lots of petting. Tots-to-teens respond to encouragement, too. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a good reminder to work on non-violent parenting skills. Parents, dogs and children can be trained in non-violent discipline.

If you can train a dog, you can train a child

January 13, 2011

The worst thing about taking care of two extra dogs is the puppy, Lily.  When I remember she’s a puppy, I take time for training. It’s the same for children, toddlers, preschoolers, tweens, and teens. Adjust my expectations for their age and take time for training.

Lily had the annoying habit of rushing through an open door. The other two dogs followed her exuberance and created chaos every time the front door opened. UGH!

I took the time to train Lily.

1. I had a plan. Before I opened the door, I told her to “hold it” and used a hand signal. Dogs understand the idea, Act, don’t Yak. [Source: Dr. Sam Goldstein.]

2. When she tried to rush out the door, I used a firm voice, said “Hold it!” or “No!” quickly closed the door and brought her back to wait beside the door. This took a few repetitions. I praised her when she did it right.

3.  I followed the door routine for several days,.  Sometimes she or I forgot and I repeated step two. Lily showed her intelligence by learning quickly. I showed my intelligence by being consistent.

As you can see in “after” Lily has gained some self-control and listens to me, which carries over to other areas and establishes me as Alpha.

Training also benefits children and teenagers.

1. Anticipate difficult situations and craft a positive parenting plan. For older children, use a family meeting to talk about the problem and solutions. For younger children, act, don’t yak, before getting angry. Following this one step can eliminate about 90 percent of all conflicts with younger children.

2. When the youngster forgets the training, remind him/her and use a related-respectful-reasonable [Source: Dr. Jane Nelsen]  consequence in the moment. When the child does it right, use encouragement, not praise.

3. For best results, all adults at home consistently enforce the new training. It’s good to have an adult Alpha at home.

This week, pick one behavior issue in your home and take time for training. The younger the child, and the more consistent you are, the sooner they will learn.

Be prepared with a plan and Act don’t Yak.

A really good reason to have a dog

September 16, 2010
Gonzo is stretching beside Cindy. Having pets is a wonderful way to bond with children. Pets and families go together. Good parenting means spending time with children and animals and slowing down to their time.

Gonzo decided to stretch beside Cindy.

The only reason I’m a dog owner is because my children wanted a dog.

What would you say when your daughter, 14, calls you at work, where you’re working under a regular weekly deadline as the editor of a newspaper. Your second dog has just died after nine years with the family — if only she could have hung on three more years.

Your daughter’s three older siblings have left home. Your daughter is home along after school. Your daughter asks in a very small voice, (very unlike other voices she uses with her mother), softly, with vulnerability, like she’s 7 years old again, “Dad says if you say “yes” we can get another dog.”

If you’re a good mother and not a dog lover, just a dog tolerator, what’s your answer?

Gonzo came to live with us eight years ago. The daughter left home four years ago. So you know who takes care of the dog. Dad! I’m her stepmother. I do what looks good and feels good and what I feel like doing because she belongs to dad and daughter.

One really good reason to have a dog is because of the cute, funny and stupid things they do. Even when my children were spitting mad at me, I could always change the atmosphere by saying, “Do you know what Boomer/Sophie/Gonzo did today?”

Even now that they’ve moved out and onto a better place, my “children” love to hear what Gonzo did today.

When Cindy started stretching, Gonzo plunked herself right between Cindy’s legs. Gonzo and Cindy adore each other. Cindy — my excellent friend and massage therapist — even gave Gonzo a massage.

Even dogs like a good massage. Gonzo is not my best friend, but my children ADORED dogs and bonded with our three family dogs. Dogs go along with having a family. Children can do plenty of chores connected to dogs.

Gonzo gets an expert massage. Cindy is really good at finding tight muscles on mammals and kneading out the tension.

Gonzo’s door trick

August 25, 2010

I’m a dog owner by default. Two dogs ago, I yielded to the urgent wishes of my four children and husband to add a dog into our cacophony, confusion and camaraderie.

Our three dogs have brought more gifts, laughter, wisdom and family unity than I could ever have imagined. They have been well-worth the investment and energy.

Gonzo’s door trick never fails to get a laugh from visitors on our porch. Usually she comes and goes through the screen door with little fanfare while we’re eating or kibitzing on the porch.

When a guest catches sight of her opening the door, they interrupt the conversation and exclaim, “Did the dog just open the door?!” Translated, “Did I just see what I thought I saw?”

Gonzo figured out how to open the door out of necessity. We didn’t interrupt what we were doing when she wanted to come in to let her in. We gave her the time and space to figure it out for herself. When she did, we congratulated her.

After the house is buckled closed for eight months of cold weather and we re-open the porch, Gonzo needs a few days to remember she knows how to get in and out of the door independently.

We have empowered our dog.

More young people could benefit from such an opportunity to think for themselves, solve problems, do homework [or not] and experience the natural and logical consequences of their decisions.