I caved... and we got a dog.
You would think with three boys that getting a dog would be inevitable.
The thing is, they had not even been begging.
My husband and I are not really dog people. At least, we weren't. It was not something we were planning on doing. At least until about a month before he came home with us... I am still not sure why we did it. But we are glad we did... (most days).
My husband never really had a dog growing up. Being an engineer, he researched and studied, to make sure he knew what we were getting into before we made such a big decision. He watched a thousand Youtube videos, checked out books from the library and read them all, he even talked with neighbors that have dogs... A big step for an introverted engineer. He is certainly a nerd and I love that about him.
But as he was studying and explaining all of the things he was learning to me, there were several principles of dog training that seemed very applicable to raising children. I don't want to compare children to puppies, but at the same time, I think a lot of people put more effort into training their pups than they do teaching their kids. It may have something to do with the fact that the negative side effects of not training your dog are much more visible than the negative side effects Here are the three key takeaways:
One thing that came up over and over again was that 90% of behavioral problems go away if the dogs get enough attention and exercise. I am not a psychologist, but I am pretty sure that this is true for children too. Think about it. Try it.
It is always best to have training sessions after a long walk or vigorous play in the yard. My husband said that when he was studying and doing homework for his hard engineering courses, he often had to take brakes and go do some physical exercise; push-ups, jumping jacks, a fast walk or jog… something to get the wiggles out and get the blood flowing. Do it before, and periodically throughout if it is taking a while.
The first thing you should do when you get home is spend 5-10 minutes giving the dog love and attention. If the dog gets 10 minutes, then how many minutes do your kids get? Wrestle with them, chase them, do gymnastics with them (or watch them do gymnastics… don’t go hurting yourself) but do give them your undivided attention and involve them in some physical activity. Don’t get home and go straight to dinner while they go off to play video games. It is certainly easier… but it is only easier tonight. It will be much harder in the long run.
They make sure to point these things out in puppy training, because a dog will let you know if you are falling short much more quickly and clearly than a child will. A child will not chew up your new shoes today because you forgot to take them on a walk yesterday. A child will not bark consistently for an hour while you make dinner right after you get home from work because you forgot or were too busy to play with them for 10 minutes. But.. the effects of not giving your children enough attention, love or exercise will manifest later in life and the consequences will be much more dire than a chewed up pair of shoes. Think on that, and then go give your child 10 minutes of your undivided attention.