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How Dog Training Has Affected My Parenting

Author: Nicole Stewart | Date: February 6, 2014

Harper bowlI’m a dog trainer.

I’m a parent.

The dog training has clearly affected my parenting…  ->

My work as a dog trainer has prepared me for parenting in ways I couldn’t predict. Here are a few examples that come to mind:

Patience, repetition and consistency are the keys to building good, lasting behavior while developing trust and confidence.
Trust is one of those things that develops and is earned over time amidst adults, but with kids and dogs, you are innocent until proven otherwise. That privilege comes with responsibility.

Rewarding the baby steps of success creates enjoyment in learning rather than fear or dread. Building on success as opposed to only punishing missteps is a more “friendly” way to learn and is more fun for both teacher and student.

Aggression begets aggression. I’ve seen this so clearly reflected in my work with dogs. When I’m a frustrated trainer, the dog I’m working with gets reflectively amped up and, in turn is more difficult to work with. This then leads to more frustration or bumps it up to anger on my side.

As a parent, it rings just as true. When I am not happy with my son’s actions and it displays itself in shouting, he is much more likely to respond with tantrums or yelling. When I keep myself calm, he may not like the answer, but his ability to recover is, by far, a quicker turn around. Not to mention, the modeling of conflict resolution starts here.

Letting the learner process takes patience from the teacher, but in the long run, speeds up learning. In classes especially, I’m always encouraging clients to ask for something the dog knows in other environments and then wait quietly for the dog to figure out what you are asking. We often ask for something such as “Sit” over and over and over in an effort to be helpful. Unfortunately, repeating a cue only interrupts their thinking and confuses the message. Asking for a “Down” (assuming they know it well in other contexts) once and then waiting for them to figure out the request can create a stronger sense of that behavior going forward.

I’ve noticed this with my kids too.

If I explain how to do something over and over, they visibly tune out. When I provide a short, yet clear explanation of something, they might not get it in the moment, but while driving the next day they will regurgitate what I said the day before.

Don’t abuse unconditional love. Our dogs seem to love us when we’re angry, happy, fat, skinny, sick, well, afraid, confident, lazy, athletic, etc. Just because you know they will love you anyway is no reason to test the theory. As a parent, the same rule applies. Our kids come out of the womb loving us in an all-encompassing way. They don’t care about the stuff, the looks, the trips, the house, etc. as long as there is love. That is, unless we teach them we are not to be trusted.

Circling before you poop gets you in sync with the earth’s polarity.

Oh. That one might be just for the dogs.

I’m sure there are more. All of you parents out there – how has having a dog made you a better parent? Comment here or post on our Facebook page.


Having never trained a dog before I knew I was out of my depth with our puppy and AnimalSense threw me my life preserver.

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