“Obedience” sounds awful in the context of parenting, doesn’t it?
At least, to the North American ear it does. We want our kids to be free to discover themselves, to think for themselves, to feel loved and valued.
“Obedience” makes us think of stern 1950s style fathers holding belts in a threatening manner, or Von Trapp family style repression of all things joyful.
But in dog training, obedience is pretty standard. Everyone wants an obedient dog.
In fact, stern dog trainers like Cesar Millan have built multi-million dollar businesses around teaching people to physically and mentally dominate their dogs.
I have always wondered why people seem to value letting their kids act like drunken yahoos, but then worship a dog trainer who often kicks, strangles and otherwise bullies dogs into submission.
Be assured that when I talk about obedience, I’m not thinking of applying any of that crap to our children.
I wouldn’t even apply that to a dog.
Obedience is not about cowing the spirit out of someone.
It isn’t about using special choking equipment or punishing them for simply doing what comes naturally to them.
Reasonable dog trainers mean this when they talk of obedience training:
- Setting high but reasonable expectations.
- Maintaining firm but loving boundaries.
- Rewarding appropriate behaviour.
- NOT rewarding inappropriate behaviour.
Not only can obedience be achieved without any whistles, forced marching, or grim frowns, but it should be achieved if you want your toddler to become a tolerable human being who wins the Nobel Prize and can afford a really swanky old age home for you some day.
Three Reasons Why Obedience Can Change Your
Puppy’s Toddler’s Life
Reason One: Functioning In Society
When a dog is stealing things off of the counter, dragging the owner down the street, and barking like crazy at the pizza delivery guy, it’s a good hint to me that he doesn’t know his manners.
Similarly, when I see children demanding food without saying ‘please,’ accepting what is given to them without saying ‘thank you’, or roaring around a restaurant instead of sitting quietly at the table, I see children who have not learned their manners.
The owners of those dogs are usually desperate for help. They don’t enjoy living with their unruly canine.
So I am assuming that people with whiny, demanding, out-of-control children probably aren’t enjoying it either. They probably just didn’t stop bad habits soon enough (or God doesn’t love them. One of those).
I meet a lot of people who let their tiny puppies jump up on them, pull on the leash, and sleep on the couch, and then they come crying to me when the dog grows up and keeps doing it.
Sure, right now, our toddlers are tiny, and cute, and can barely speak English, but their habits are getting set now, and some day they’ll be a lot bigger. So you need to ask yourself, “what kind of adult do I want my child to be?”
Do you want your kid to be a patient, polite, and kind person? Or that customer who cuts in line, is rude to teens wearing McDonald’s uniforms, and can’t wait 5 minutes for fresh fries?
It is never too soon to start teaching them to take turns, be polite, and wait nicely for meals.
You need manners to function normally in society. You need manners to function normally within the family unit. And if your children don’t have manners, you’re going to be tempted to sell them on Ebay to the highest bidder.
It is not unreasonable to expect basic manners from our kids, and we don’t have to wait until they are adults for that to happen.
If you can train a three month old puppy to sit and wait for five minutes before allowing him to eat his dinner (and trust me, you can), then a human 18 month old, with the intelligence of a fully adult dog, can definitely learn that too.
The youngest of talkers is capable of learning “please” and “thank you” – or, at least, something like it (our son said “dabbo” until he was two and a half, but we knew what he meant. In fact, we started saying “dabbo” too. He grew out of it. We haven’t).
The smallest tot can learn to fold hands together and wait patiently for half a minute or so while you finish preparing her cereal.
It’s a good start for a better future.
Also, it’s much, MUCH better for your sanity.
When I see a dog who runs into the road without pausing, who doesn’t come when called, or who jumps up on small children, I see a dog who hasn’t learned basic safety.
What is the solution? Obedience!
After all, we can’t expect those fur brains to understand the danger of cars or bears or expensive veterinary bills. We can’t expect them to understand that the punishment for a dog who has hurt a child is execution by humane euthanasia.
But we can expect them to do what we say.
The same goes for small children.
A two year old can’t understand why she shouldn’t run into the road, or run around a swimming pool, or poke a snarling dog in the eye (although you should always explain, so that some day she will). But a two year old CAN understand the word “STOP!”
This seriously happened to me. When he was two, my son was throwing a ball for the dog, when the ball took a bad hop and then made a startlingly fast roll down the grass and right into the road.
Dog and toddler both took off after the ball.
Dog and toddler both stopped at the curb, because I had trained them both to do so.
They watched in anxious misery as the ball rolled all the way down the driveway and into the street. They were both very upset. I told them, “STAY!”
Then I ran all the way down the street to fetch the ball, which ended up in a flower bed after dodging two cars, bouncing over yet another curb, and narrowly missing a pedestrian.
When I trudged back up the road, dog and toddler were still waiting on the sidewalk.
Obedience. It saves lives.
Reason 3: Success in Life
Obedience teaches self control.
When you say “stop!” your toddler needs to be able to inhibit her natural urge to keep running in order to obey your command.
When you tell a dog “sit!” when he is jumping for a treat, he needs to fight his urge to leap for the treat and instead lower his bum to the ground.
They learn to control themselves, to fight their impulses, and that builds their capacity for self-control.
Self-control is a vital life skill.
Studies have found that a small child’s ability to control him or herself can predict all kinds of stuff, like how well the child will do in school and how successful he or she will be later in life. For example, poor self control is considered one of the best predictors of criminal behaviour.
Self control actually matters more than IQ when it comes to predicting whether your kid will end up pouring coffee for embittered business men, or discovering the cure for cancer.
It makes a difference in dogs, too. Most of the dog behavior problems I get called in to help with involve a dog who can’t control himself. I always recommend obedience exercises.
Owners are always surprised when they learn that regular down-stays at their house has resulted in their dog’s leash aggression becoming much more controllable.
Those obedience exercises taught the dog self control.
By expecting basic obedience from your children – simple things, like waiting calmly for meals, asking politely for desired things, and stopping when ordered to stop, we are also preparing them for the school room and eventually for the workplace.
If you want your children to be pleasant, likeable, safe, and grow up to be able to buy you a summer home in Europe, teach them basic obedience in toddlerhood.
Have no idea how? Don’t worry. I’m here to help.