Parents learn tips from puppy school |

Parents learn tips from puppy school

A new addition to the family showed up in our lives about a year ago – a new puppy.Amid the excitement of finding the right name, introducing her to friends, and taking puppy photos, we were faced with helping her learn appropriate behavior for being a part of the family.The solution: puppy school. As a family we attended Donna Dubois’ dog obedience class. With each week’s class, I couldn’t help but draw the parallels to some of the same basic concepts that we teach in YouthZone parenting classes. For example:Mean it, say it, do it – Donna’s rule: Don’t give your dog a command that you can’t enforce. As parents, don’t say to your child “you’re grounded forever” when you don’t control forever. Think before you even throw out grounded for six months. You have just given yourself the same sentence and chances are that even you won’t last the six months. Instead you have reinforced a lesson that says you don’t really say what you mean. Firmness, dignity and respect – Donna made it clear that the tone of voice was very important if we wanted our animals to pay attention to our command. It is a voice that conveys expectation. How often we as parents try to get our children to obey by begging, pleading, manipulating or threatening. It doesn’t work with kids nor did it work with a single one of those dogs in the puppy class. When I say things that I mean and will follow through with, it is easy to use a firm tone without any extras like sarcasm or belittling. “When your homework is done, then you can turn on the television.” If my child whines and complains, there is no need to do anything but keep a firm and respectful tone, “Turning on the television is in your control. You decide when that is by when you have your homework done.” Encourage, encourage, encourage – When a dog was doing anything in the right direction that was being asked of it, Donna had us give the animal lots of positive feedback. Before long, dogs (like ours) that were nearly out of control to begin with, were doing the perfect sit-stay!Parenting guru Stephen Glenn says of our children, “Any movement in the right direction should be encouraged, not picked apart.” When small children get their shoes on the wrong feet, we need to give them positive feedback for getting their shoes on. Eventually, we can begin to help them understand which feet the shoes go on. If we pick apart behavior that isn’t perfect, we will get a child who quickly learns that trying only brings on criticism. Kids are way too smart to get caught in that spin. They quit trying. The chaos of the animals and uncertainty of their owners on the first night was replaced with a calm assurance on the part of all by the time that the course ended. Without exception, dogs and people were all much happier with each other after following Donna’s clear guidance. I see that similar sense of confidence and happiness with parents who have taken the time to gain new insight and learn new skills through a parenting class. Debbie Wilde is the executive director of YouthZone. YouthZone offers several parenting classes. For more information, call 945-9300, 625-3141, or 920-5702.

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