Dog-obedience tricks for toddlers?
I feel good watching Cesar Millan, the â€śDog Whisperer,â€ť on television. I like seeing the people he works with. Defeated, exhausted shells of their former selves, lives being ruled by their dogs.
Thereâ€™s always a point in the show where these people realize all that has befallen them is their own fault. Too permissive? Bad! Too many treats? Bad! Barking dog? Really bad!
I feel happy to see these people suffer because this is the way I feel at the end of an episode of Nanny 911 â€“ broken.
Reasoning with your toddler? Wrong! Sippy cup in the crib? Wrong! Screaming to be heard over a tantrum? Wrong!
At a crisis point in nap establishment, I turned to a book (also written by an English nanny) that blamed all these child-rearing faux pas on â€śaccidental parentingâ€ť â€“ in a nutshell, youâ€™ve â€śroyally @#*%ed up.â€ť
But watching Cesar Millan, I, who do not have a dog, have an outlet for feeling superior.
Perhaps I can no longer say, â€śI would never buy a plastic toy,â€ť now that my living room is home to a plastic kitchen and toddler-size fire truck. But I can watch the dog show and think, with confidence, â€śYeah, I would never let my dog jump up on people. Unacceptable. I would establish a pack leader status with my canine tout de suite.â€ť
Dog people and baby people seem to be very similar breeds. And raising dogs and toddlers is also eerily parallel. Both chew inappropriate things, crawl into dangerous spaces and exhaust you from hours of repeating â€śNo, donâ€™t eat thatâ€ť or â€śSpit out the pencil leadâ€ť while sweeping your finger around their mouth to get out foreign objects.
We may not talk about teaching a toddler to â€śstay,â€ť but wouldnâ€™t it be easier to have such simple commands at our parenting fingertips? The goal for both kids and dogs is the same â€“ to protect them from running in front of a car, getting lost or wandering off while you figure out what a â€ścortadoâ€ť is on the menu at the local coffee shop. Inspired by the straightforward tips on Dog Whisperer, I went to Cesar Millanâ€™s website. There, under a section called discipline, I saw another practical command: â€śLeave it.â€ť Perfect for preventing serious injury when your child reaches for a hot pot on the stove â€“ or longingly eyes your dangly earring.
And though I would never suggest an invisible fence as a suitable containment tool for a child, what about a fence that talks in a stern voice? As the child approaches, it could repel them with scary phrases like, â€śDo I have to turn off Dora?â€ť or â€śBroccoliâ€™s almost steamed!â€ť
When my son Felix was starting to walk, I developed an appreciation for the kennels some dogs sleep in at night. It popped to mind one evening, after the zillionth time he made a precarious escape from his crib: â€śIf only this crib had a lid on it.â€ť
Actually, such a thing exists. Some people might call it a cage, but in parenting itâ€™s known as a crib tent. It has a mesh, dome-like cover that supposedly prevents cats jumping in bed with your infant. But Iâ€™m pretty sure I know what kind of sleep-deprived, exhausted, â€śI just want to watch five consecutive minutes of 30 Rockâ€ť mind came up with it.
I was relieved to hear about my friend who shook her dog awake in the middle of the night when â€śsleeping peacefullyâ€ť suddenly morphed in her mind to â€śOh my God, sheâ€™s dead!â€ť
I have scared the crap out of Felix more than once with a paranoid â€śheâ€™s not breathing!â€ť yelled into the crib as I poked him in the chest, followed immediately by a soothing, â€śshhhh, shhhhh, go back to sleep, everything is okay.â€ť I imagine this is how night terrors take root.
I do sometimes envy dog people because dogs donâ€™t learn to talk. Itâ€™s easy to pretend you donâ€™t know what your puppyâ€™s trying to tell you. He may have the leash in his mouth and be looking at the door, but that could mean any weird dog thing like, â€śThis is the pose Iâ€™m thinking of for my portrait.â€ť
Felixâ€™s recent commentary while I was parallel parking was harder to ignore. â€śWhat are you doing, mommy? Why are you on the sidewalk? A pole! A pole!â€ť
Ultimately, both dog and baby whisperers will tell you the same thing: Parenting humans or canines comes down to calm, assertive leadership. Cesar Millan or any of the French Mothers Who Donâ€™t Get Fat know about this. I know about it from the Dog Whisperer website (no emotional arguments or negotiations!) and from reading Bringing up BĂ©bĂ© by Pamela Druckerman.
Ms. Druckerman realizes that when French parents say â€śnon,â€ť they mean it and expect to be obeyed. I realized that sometimes when I say â€śNo,â€ť I am also searching my coat pockets for errant raisins to use as a bribe.
This is why I am turning over a new leaf and embracing the importance of â€śpack-leader statusâ€ť among little humans and dogs of all size.
Yes, kid, I am the boss of you. Because those little suckers eventually figure out how to get out of that crib tent and chew on your brand-new ballet flats. And when youâ€™ve missed that whole season of 30 Rock and have only insoles to wear as shoes, it truly will be ALL YOUR FAULT.