My family has just welcomed a new addition into our fold, Max the mixed breed puppy. This is the second four legged friend I have been blessed with raising in my life so far. Our last dog, Norman the beagle, passed last summer after almost 15 years of mostly unconditional love and companionship (beagles can bea little particular with their affection). We finally decided to adopt because we just missed having a dog in our family way too much.
Immediately, I started noticing differences in our puppy parenting style. When my husband and I first got Norman, we were newly married, wrapped up in our careers, completely un-awakened and totally oblivious to the obvious mistakes we were making with our self centered ways. Now, however, we have been parents of human kids for over 12 years and currently have 3 of those; so our patience level has increased approximately 10,000 times. I have been a proponent of conscious parenting for a long time but this carefree little canine is teaching this old dog some new, or maybe just forgotten, tricks.
You see, with dogs, their reactions to our energy and their environment are immediate and very hard to ignore. I thought I had a handle on the atmosphere of our home and the vibe of our family, until Max came along. Soon, I realized we had become a bit complacent, settling for less than calmness and serenity. In a 3200 square foot house with 5 people, there is loudness; not in anger but just out of the need to communicate. I guess the members of our pack had gotten accustomed to this terrible habit of shouting, but Max has shown us the error of those ways and many more.
Lesson one: Raised voices, for ANY reason, and puppies do not mix. That behavior changes the energy of the surroundings and a dog will react with a myriad of unpleasant actions like peeing, barking, digging, and chewing just to name a few. My kids were not responding with any unusual behavior because they had become part of the problem. My family took note quickly and we are working on our tone with each other, trying to be more quiet, peaceful and respectful of our baby doggy (as my 6 year old calls him).
That was just the tip of the dysfunctional ice berg that I did not see until we were near a Titanic type situation. It became abundantly clear to all of us that puppies need attention; let me rephrase that, puppies need incredible amounts of endless attention and will seek to get it however they can.
Lesson two: only give attention to the positive behavior or you risk reinforcing the negative. Of course, this came easily to me as I had been using the technique with my own kids successfully; or so I thought. A repeated problem recently came up with my pre-teen daughter for a 3rd time, so instead of my usual course of long discussions and relinquishing of privileges; I thought I’d give the old ignore the negative behavior trick a try. She did receive a minor punishment that fit the crime and no further attention was given to the matter. She now happily rings a bell whenever she has to pee; oh wait, that’s the dog. The other side of the attention coin is making sure the positive behavior is not only rewarded, but celebrated and met with more interest than the negative. Sounds simple, but Max has made it apparent that our family is slightly self centered on their own interests (for example, he just tried to chew a pillow while I’m writing this).
Like children, puppies get cranky when they are tired. Lesson three: personal space is needed for quiet time. Just like a tantrum, you cannot allow a dog to terrorize your family with crazy energy that has no rhyme or reason. Therefore, it’s important to give them a quiet time just like people sometimes need. When my kids become moody or unruly, I simply send them in their rooms to settle down (when they were toddlers we called it a time out). In fact, Max is having a time out as I write and has calmed down within 5 minutes without me having to follow him around saying NO every 3 seconds because of his crazed outburst. Once the fit is over, parents must sit and comfort their kids (or puppies); love and affection always goes a long way and the kisses (or licks) we receive are their own reward for our patience.
Every day Max shows us what we need to improve. They say kids are a reflection of their parents and, while that is totally true, I’m finding that our puppy is an instant expression of our energy complete with undeniable signals. He has made our family uber aware and is teaching my kids direct lessons about being connected to other living beings and we are so grateful for it. He’s our personal energy-ometer and I’m hopeful that the forecast will remain much sunnier with him around.
If you are interested in more information about Conscious Parenting of the human variety, please visit my website and take a look at my book, “Truth Works, Divine Life Lessons for Kids of All Ages”. You can read a sample chapter and pre-order your copy at www.ginasendef.com.