Two years ago this week, we drove to the town of Victorville to look at a puppy. Just look, mind you. We fell in love the the rest is history!
I think we bit off more than we can chew! We thought it would be nice for our daughter to have a companion in the form of an animal. She’s out of state in college and busy with academics plus D1 swimming, and for some hair-brained reason, we thought a puppy would bring a lot of joy and fun into her daily life.
She asked permission of her landlord, and even though her lease says “no pets,” he agreed to a small dog. We decided the puppy would be a present for Christmas.
Our daughter wanted a pug and thinks they are so cute. They are. I’ll agree to that. We looked into suitable breeds, and besides the two negatives of snoring and shedding, pugs appear to be an easy going breed requiring very little care.
But the puppy thing. I’m on day five and I think puppy is winning the battle. It’s like having an infant again. I have to watch him constantly. He doesn’t sleep through the night, and when he’s crawling on his belly through the yard, I never know what is going to end up in his mouth. I knew we were in for trouble when we drove Waffles home for an hour and a half drive. He was squirming all the way, nipping and licking my neck and fingers. Finally, as we drove into town he fell asleep. That’s what my son would do in his car seat during long drives.
I’m crate training, potty training and my daily life suddenly got very busy and tiring. Why we think our daughter can handle this is beyond me. Of course, she does have youth on her side. And Waffles is so darn cute!
We started the day off with our walk around the park and Waffles was not listening and was stubborn. My daughter said, “He’s being a brat.”
My daughter and Waffles walk faster than me, so they will often get far ahead and double back to me. Every time they changed directions to come back to me, Waffles stopped and wouldn’t budge. Then he tugged and pulled to go in the direction he wanted.
After the walk, Waffles sat in the kitchen and stared up at the counter and barked. He barked repeatedly and loudly. When that got him nothing, he scratched on the laundry room door, which I had closed because he had knocked over the trash can and dug through it moments before.
Maybe Waffles misses his swim team?
Then, I remembered the HuffPo story I wrote about earlier called “The Best Parenting Advice My Mom Gave Me” by Taylor Pittman. There was one bit of advice in there that might work for a pupper as well as kids.
“With Mother’s Day less than a week away, we wanted to know how our readers’ moms affected their lives. We asked members of the HuffPost Parents community to share the best pieces of parenting advice they ever received from their moms.
“Some of the tidbits are funny, while others are more earnest. They’re all endearing in their own way.”
Here’s the bit of advice I used on Waffles when he was barking in the kitchen, rummaging through the trash and scratching on the laundry room door:
“‘Have you tried going to the bathroom?’ Great advice from my mom, which I’ve shared with my own children time and again. Sometimes the solution to the problem is as simple as that.” ― Elizabeth Meinicke Flynn
And, it worked! I took him outside, he went to the bathroom and immediately settled down. I don’t have an answer on why he acted so stubbornly on our morning walk around the park, though.
What advice do you have for children or pets when they’re acting out?
Have you read about a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania about how doggos parent their puppers? The ones who are most paws off raise the best guide dog grads. The mom dogs who coddle their young have pups who fail guide dog school. We can learn about parenting styles and the success our kids may have in school from man’s best friend. As the former owner of a guide dog flunkie, who was a wonderful companion dog for 15 years, I was interested in finding out exactly how the research was done.
From ABC News: “Parenting techniques even apply to guide dogs, study says:”
“Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania studied the early development, parenting and subsequent performance of 98 puppies who underwent guide dog training. Dogs who received more independence and less support from their mothers were more likely to be successful in becoming a guide dog, and they also demonstrated improved problem-solving skills.
“In other words, successful guide dogs were more likely to have been brought up by ‘tough love’ moms. The study was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”
NPR had their story called “Coddled Puppies Make Poor Guide Dogs, Study Suggests:”
“Basically the puppies are kept in a kiddie pool lined with towels. So the hands-off mothers are the ones that are spending less time [in the pool] with their puppies and not interacting with them as much,” explains Bray. “Whereas a hands-on mother is going to be constantly in the pool, licking them, grooming them, interacting with them.”
They found that among the 98 puppies they studied, the actively-mothered ones were more likely to fail a guide dog training program later.
How mothers nurse their puppies also affected how puppies performed. The mothers will either lie down to nurse, or sit or stand up. If the mother dog is sitting or standing, “she’s further from the puppy. The puppy has to work for it,” explains Bray. “Those puppies are more successful [later] as guide dogs.”
My kids with Angus.
Here’s a link to the actual study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America:
A successful guide dog must navigate a complex world, avoid distractions, and respond adaptively to unpredictable events. What leads to success? We followed 98 puppies from birth to adulthood. Puppies were enrolled in a training program where only ∼70% achieved success as guide dogs. More intense mothering early in life was associated with program failure. In addition, mothers whose nursing style required greater effort by puppies produced more successful offspring. Among young adult dogs, poor problem-solving abilities, perseveration, and apparently greater anxiety when confronted with a novel object were also associated with program failure. Results mirror the results from rodents and humans, reaffirming the enduring effects on adult behavior of maternal style and individual differences in temperament and cognition.
A continuing debate in studies of social development in both humans and other animals is the extent to which early life experiences affect adult behavior. Also unclear are the relative contributions of cognitive skills (“intelligence”) and temperament for successful outcomes. Guide dogs are particularly suited to research on these questions. To succeed as a guide dog, individuals must accomplish complex navigation and decision making without succumbing to distractions and unforeseen obstacles. Faced with these rigorous demands, only ∼70% of dogs that enter training ultimately achieve success. What predicts success as a guide dog? To address these questions, we followed 98 puppies from birth to adulthood. We found that high levels of overall maternal behavior were linked with a higher likelihood of program failure. Furthermore, mothers whose nursing style required greater effort by puppies were more likely to produce successful offspring, whereas mothers whose nursing style required less effort were more likely to produce offspring that failed. In young adults, an inability to solve a multistep task quickly, compounded with high levels of perseveration during the task, was associated with failure. Young adults that were released from the program also appeared more anxious, as indicated by a short latency to vocalize when faced with a novel object task. Our results suggest that both maternal nursing behavior and individual traits of cognition and temperament are associated with guide dog success.
We can learn from dogs to let our kids fall down once in awhile. We can let them forage through our fridges to make their own snacks. H*ck, we could let them prepare dinner for the family, on occasion, too. If they forget their homework or swim bag, let them face the consequences. They’ll be better prepared for life if we don’t save them from it on a daily basis.
What do you think we can learn about parenting from our animal friends?
P.S. Cutesy dog language (like h*ck or puppers) I discovered on the “WeRateDogs” Twitter account. If you’re a dog person, the tweets will make you smile and brighten your day (see photo of my daughter’s pug Waffles below.)