Safety First!!!

We all love our dogs!!  They find their way into our hearts and wrap themselves around it.  We want them to love us as we love them.  However, sometimes all that love can have dire consequences.  Take driving with us in our cars….

I cannot tell you how many times I have been driving and see a little dog in the driver’s lap with its head out the window.  I so worry about that dog if the owner gets into an accident.  The dog will either be tossed out the window or killed by the air bag inflating.  And the dog sitting in the driver’s lap is a distraction.  Imagine he sees another dog on the street and starts barking and trying to jump out as the driver tries to control him AND tries to drive his car.  And you thought texting was bad??!!??

Putting the dog in the front passenger seat can be just as dangerous.  If the air bag inflates….  I’m sure you all know the answer to what happens.

In my Basic Orientation Handouts I present a paradigm that I believe works for our dogs.  Over the years it has become obvious that most of my clients want to treat their dog as though it was a baby. In the beginning I objected, telling them their dog was not a furry child. But I have reversed that position over the years due to my observations of dogs and my knowledge of children. (I was a certified elementary teacher in my previous life) I now encourage owners to actually treat their dogs more like a child around the age of 8 months to a year.

“BUT HE’S MY BABY!        

Think about the similarities between children and puppies or dogs. Toddlers are pre-verbal at this stage, lacking the ability to understand language and also speak it. Our domestic dogs are mentally equal to this stage in child development. They lack the capacity to understand the difference between “sit” and “fit” and will generally offer a sitting behavior to both words. The dog responds to the sound of the word, the conditioning/training behind that cue and not to the actual meaning of the word. An understanding of this is helpful to owners trying to communicate with a pet that is misbehaving.

Let’s examine more of this analogy between your dog and a child and you will see that it works. Here are a few categories to illustrate.

  • Travel:  Let’s start with traveling with your pet since that’s how this blog started.  All my dogs are either seat-belted or in crates for their protection.  A dog in the front seat is at terrible risk!  No mother would allow her baby to sit in the passenger seat in the front of a vehicle.  They know the risk of the airbag inflating and potentially killing the child.  The same is true for our dogs.  A dog in the driver’s seat or passenger seat can either go through the windshield or killed by the airbag.  Please protect your dog as you would your child.
  • Potty Training: It is the parent’s responsibility to teach potty training, not the child’s responsibility to figure it out. Parents today are even using “potty charts” to reinforce correct behavior. Parents also know that punishment/corrections only make the process more difficult and ultimately take longer.
  • Household Management:
    • Cribs: It is rare today to find a parent putting their child in bed with them. Cribs are first of all safer than being in bed. In addition, parents who do put babies in their beds, generally pay dearly when it’s time to put Baby in its own bed.  The baby has become dependent upon the parent’s bed for feelings of safety and show signs of separation anxiety in their own bed.
      • The same can be seen to happen with our dogs. I treat many dogs with separation related behaviors; dogs who have been sleeping in bed since 8,9 or 10 weeks and consequently have not been taught to live in their own skin. Crating your dog for the first year will produce a confident dog and not a needy, Velcro pet.
    • Playpens: When unable to supervise Baby, parents frequently put the child in a playpen to keep it safe. I believe management in an exercise pen is far superior to the dog in the kitchen. First my puppy is safe, housetraining goes faster than if he were in a kitchen and there is no chance he can chew on any household item or learn counter-surfing.
    • Education: All games with Baby are educational and designed to stimulate their mind. Puppy school and Obedience should stimulate the dog’s mind. Studies actually show that dogs that are trained are smarter and more easily handled than those that are not.
    • Punishment: Parents do not smack or punish their 9 month child for getting into trouble. Instead they manage the child knowing that Baby cannot understand anything they are saying to it and the punishment frightens and destroys the relationship. Responsible dog owner must do the same. Your dog DOES NOT UNDERSTAND.

I’m sure you can come up with more examples if you think about it. The best guideline, therefore, is if you would not do it with a child, don’t do it to your dog or puppy. Look at your dog’s behavior and ask yourself this important question, “If this were my real child, would I permit him to behave in this manner?” And look at your own Ask yourself, “Would I treat a human child in this manner?”  If your answer to either question is “No”, please begin making changes today. You and your dog will be safer and happier in the long run.


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