Lessons from the Dog… Father’s Day Thoughts

Each year, at Father’s Day, I reflect for a bit about my son and our relationship. I wonder how I am doing as a dad. Am I loving enough, yet stern enough for him to know the rules and the consequences for breaking them? Am I supportive, but not enabling? Do I help make him feel safe, secure, like he belongs? Am I building his self-confidence, strength and individuality, but not nurturing narcissism? Am I understanding, yet still hold him accountable? Do I lead by example?

As dads, we sometimes share these thoughts and concerns with each other. These are not generally serious, planned conversations, but, rather, impromptu comments or questions mixed in casually with our shared hobbies: sports, music, camping trips, etc…. I recently hung out with a friend whose children are all grown and have kids of their own. I casually asked how they were doing. He shared with me how son #1’s kids were all doing well and how son #2’s kids were all over the place. He said “If you want to know how good you’re doing at it, just look at your dog. Son 1’s (name withheld for privacy) dog is great. He listens, stays out from under your feet, plays with everyone. He’s good. My other son’s dog is a mess – always under your feet, always jumping on people, doesn’t listen when you call his name, runs off, uses the bathroom in the house. He’s a wreck!”

I am not sure that I completely agree with my friend’s assessment, but I do find it interesting. Kids and dogs are certainly not the same! But, they are a lot alike. They both look to you for guidance. They’re dependent on you for their welfare. They seek your approval and affection. They thrive with consistency and predictability. They repeat behaviors that you reward them for.

WARNING – I am not in any position to provide advice for people and their children. However, I can give you a few tips for your pups. If my friend is right, maybe these tips can help in more ways than one.

K-9 Dog Dad Tips for Success….

  1. Dogs Need Structure & Consistency – If you allow Fido to lie on the couch and someone else scolds him for getting on it, you’re going to have issues. Structure, i.e., rules and boundaries, provides a sense security. A lack of these can make life unpredictable and scary. Structure and consistency at home will lead to success away from home.
  2. Dogs Need Attention & Affection – Dogs want to make you happy. If they know that you’re happy with their behavior, they’ll repeat it. The more love and affection they receive, the more eager they are to make you happy. Dogs give back what you give out.
  3. Dogs Need to be Heard – Good communication is key. Your pup will tell you what they are excited, scared, stressed and annoyed about. Learn your dog’s body language. A wagging tail does not always mean that they are happy!
  4. Dogs are not Perfect – Have realistic goals. A good dog trainer will do exercises with a dog hundreds, or even thousands, of times in order to establish predictable behaviors. It takes time – sometimes it takes even longer.
  5. Be Patient… with Yourself – You cannot know everything and you are not going to get it right every single time. If you’re a caring, loving and conscientious pet parent, trust that you will be OK. Making mistakes is part of the process of caring for a dog. Be patient with yourself.
  6. Be Patient… with Your Dog – Dogs, like humans, go through phases. Puppies and adolescent dogs require much more patience than adult dogs. Recognize that bad behaviors can often be a part of their maturation process and an opportunity for you to guide them.
  7. Dogs Repeat Behaviors that are Reinforced – If you want something repeated, reward it. No one works for free! If you see a behavior that you do not want, redirect your pup to something you want them to do and reward them.
  8. Dogs Need Training – A good dog will know sit, down, stay, off and come when called. They will have good manners and self-control. If your pup doesn’t have these essential skills, they’ll be unsuccessful in following the basic behavioral rules of society.
  9. You Both Deserve a Great Relationship Together – A great relationship means that your dog trusts you and is calm and relaxed around you. They are not anxious or scared in your presence. Communications are open, clear and effective.

I hope that the above K-9 points help put into perspective some of the simple things we need to keep in mind to help us be successful pet parents. If you believe as my friend, then I hope the above gives you some insight. Finally, us dads need to stick together. So, whether you’re the dad to a four-legged or two-legged child, thank you and I hope that you have a great Father’s Day!

–Jarrette Burckhalter, Dad and Director of Marketing & Operations for K-9 Coach

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K-9 Coach