There was a certain man who after his children were grown and away from home decided he needed a dog as a companion. This dog would be named ‘Buddy’. He dreamed of a dog who was clean and ‘potty trained’—one who would lie by his chair in the evenings moving only to put his head on the man’s lap to be petted. The man dreamed of going for walks with this companion walking properly and dignified by his left side. In this dream Buddy always obeyed and came running when his name was called. Buddy never had to be tied up or put on a leash, for he would never run out of yard for his desire would always be to be near me and to be close to the house. Buddy would never disobey nor never go out on the road. Buddy would never jump on the gentleman, but always sit on command. Then I went and bought a black lab puppy — and woke up.
This black lab puppy is the cutest ‘bundle of joy’ you could ever ask for, but he has a dog’s nature which is opposed to my nature. Buddy has a call to the wild. I am discovering that every one of my desires are foreign to him and if he is going to live in my house and eat my food he must change his nature. This will take training and this will take work—and the one who has to do the work is me! My life will never be the same.
I could not help but think about you young parents with your own ‘bundle of joy’. I watch you the first few weeks and notice the pride on your face as your friends come up one at a time, lift the corner of the blanket and smile at your little miracle. Then I notice after a few weeks reality setting in—this is not all fun and games—this is work. The parents soon discover that this little one has a strong will—a nature, if not directed and trained will bring both the child and the parents to grief.
The ones who are the happiest, four years after the ‘new arrival’ are the ones who learned the rules of training and are then consistently applying them. Let me share my methods of training Buddy with you—for they will also work with your ‘bundle of joy’.
1. Set goals of what behaviors and characteristics you want your child to have. If you do not have ‘targets’ how will you know when you have arrived?
2. Pick the most important characteristics and behaviors. You can only work on a very few at a time.
3. Catch the child doing good—and reward every time. Your smile and kind voice making a fuss over him is a child’s greatest reward.
4. When the child does that which is against your wishes—first determine if it is a mistake, or is it rebellion. Restrain and redirect mistakes. Discipline rebellion. Make sure your face and your voice give the same message of disapproval.
5. Firmly and kindly restrain negative behavior—no matter how long it takes.
6. Use a firm and assertive voice that states positively what you want the child to do. Never shout or use abusive language.
7. BE CONSISTENT! What you want them to do and how you want them to behave must be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
8. Make your training and expectations ‘age appropriate’. There is an age before which you will just frustrate yourself trying to ‘potty train’ them.
Now back to Buddy and my dream dog.
I started by teaching him to sit and not to jump on me. I call his name and whistle. When he comes, I say, ”Sit”. I do not pet him or give him a treat until he sits in front of me. Then I give him the treat and cuddle him—using my best ‘baby talk’—which I rather you never get to hear. If he starts to jump on me, I stop and say with a firm assertive voice, “Stop, sit!”.
Now I am working on walking with him by my side. I cannot let him off his leash, yet—for he will immediately obey the call of the wild and begin to follow the scent of cougars and bears which leads him down into the woods—which upsets me, and I have determined that I am the adult and I am not going to be upset. If anybody is to be upset, it will be Buddy.
I first tried a medium leash, but he wanted to drag me all around the block — and I am not going to be dragged. I then went to a very short leash which I held close to my left side. He still wanted to smell every weed and drag me sidewise. I then went to a training collar with metal prongs which does not hurt him as long as he is walking with me but if he decides to go his own way it digs in—a little. He is just six month old and now walks like a little gentleman on my left side. You would be proud of him.
But Brother Reynolds — that is cruel. No, that is kind – if he wants to live in my home and eat my food. When friends come, I want to be proud of him.
Oh, before I forget, the potty training. I feed him and then in five minutes I jump up, put on my coat and both of us go out into the cold. Guess what? Both of us are learning!
I cannot let him outside without a leash to restrain his call to the wild as yet and may not be able to do so for a while, but one day I know he will want to stay home — for we are buddies.
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