Monday, January 19, 2015

Parenthood – Week 86: What I Learned About Parenting From Raising My Dog-Part 1

Some of the most important things about parenting, I learned from raising my puppy, Buffy.

There are a lot of different reactions to the statement above and that’s the reason I’ve hesitated to write this blog post. I’ve had this post floating around in my head about how raising our puppy prepared me for raising my son Ollie. The reason I haven’t written this post yet is because I’ve been trying to figure out how to frame what I’m talking about here and not give people the wrong idea and ruffle people’s feathers.

For many people, comparing raising a dog to raising a child is inappropriate and annoying. It’s a dog. It’s not a human; it’s not your flesh and blood. Usually dogs live for a much shorter period of time than children and in many ways, dogs are easier to raise and live with than kids.

In some ways I agree that comparing raising a dog to raising a human doesn’t make sense. It’s not because I think that raising a dog is so much easier than raising a human baby, it’s that both dogs and kids are unique. The love I have for Buffy is like no other kind of love in my life. I would say the same thing for the love I have for my mother, my wife and my son. The way we feel, the love that we have for different souls in our lives is unique and that’s what makes this love and these people important and meaningful.

The other reasons that comparing raising a puppy to raising a human is problematic for people is the wide variety of approaches people take to puppy and child-rearing. Some people spend a lot of time with their dogs, take them to classes, play with them daily and regularly go on outings with their dog. Other people buy a dog, never train the pet, rarely take them out on walks and provide as much attention and care to their canine companions as most people do a houseplant.

The same thing goes for children. Great parents spend quality time with their children, support their school education at home, and spend time and resources to help them grow into independent and empathetic human beings. Unfortunately there are negligent parents in the world who have their children watch television for hours every day, treat school like a daycare, and make no effort to help develop their children intellectually and emotionally.

Between these extremes we all fall somewhere. If you were not as active in raising your dog, it may seem ridiculous to apply that experience to raising a child.  However, if you are like Diana and I who put a lot into raising our puppy Buffy, it’s not such a crazy idea to compare some of those experiences to our son.

The other factor to consider in this discussion is the fact that it is impossible to know what it’s like to raise a dog or a human without actually raising one. If you have a child but have never had a dog, you may think that its ridiculous how much time your friend spends with his dog.  There’s a lot of assumptions from dog owners without kids about their friends with kids and parents about their friends who only have dogs. When these two parties meet and empathize with each other struggles, there’s a sense that something is weird.  Rather than seriously talk about what is similar, it’s easier to brush off what can be learned from each other’s experience as invalid. We miss out when we do this.

To dog owners without kids: These points are important to consider and will help you better understand what it means to think of your dog as more than just a “pet.” I hope this series of posts also validates your feelings and emotions about some of the most beautiful canine souls in the world.

To parents who don’t have or never had a dog: This isn’t about raising a dog being more important. This is about how experiences in life outside of parenthood can help us think differently about what we do for our own kids. You may not understand or agree with the comparison, but these lessons are important regardless of their origin.

To parents who have a dog in their lives: Hopefully you will get what I’m talking about here, but you may not if you took a different approach to puppy and child-rearing. The connections I draw between raising Buffy and Ollie will help you draw your own connections and see how these experiences, as different as they are make us better dog owners and parents.

That's the introduction.

First up: “The Insensitivity Of Keeping Score”

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