Guest blog by ASPCA Volunteer Manager Julie Sonenberg, a mom of one daughter and two dogs in New York City.
Before I was a parent (of a human), I remember nodding in agreement when parents told stories about their children, saying, “Oh, totally, my dog does that too!” And after seeing the expressions on their faces, I’d qualify, “I know that having a child is different than having a dog. But, still, I get it.” But I see now that I didn’t exactly get it. Having a dog is a lot of work: Three walks a day, no matter the weather. They might wake you up early on the weekends to go to the park. You have to take them to the vet, and in some cases, the groomer. You need to feed them and be responsible for their general well-being. Training them is of paramount importance, in order to have a dog who doesn’t eat your furniture, pee on your floor and who generally fits into society.
I went to dog training school about ten years ago and worked as a private dog training instructor. Most of my job was training people to train their dogs (people are much harder to train than dogs). I used positive reinforcement methods whereby you reward behaviors that you want to see again. At the time, I thought that having these training skills would mean that, later in life, when I became a parent of a human child, I would already have all the necessary skills. How different could it be, training a person and training a dog? After all, I want my child to fit into society and refrain from eating my furniture or peeing on my floor.
Raising a human child, like training a dog, does require patience, love and consistency. And some form of positive reinforcement. But the main difference is that you have to explain more and teach them about feelings. I now find myself giving the dogs more explanation than they need. I’m glad I have the opportunity to be the mom of furry children, and of a bi-ped, too. They get to be “siblings” to each other, which helps my daughter build character and empathy. And I like to think that my practice as a dog trainer was a good foundation for parenting.
Caroline Golon is a busy mom of two young girls and two rascally Persian rescue cats living in Columbus, Ohio. She’s passionate about animal welfare and creating happy households with both kids and pets. She’s a regular contributor to Vetstreet.com and other pet-centric sites. You can read more about Caroline’s adventures with kids and pets at her site, Crayons and Collars.
It’s amazing the things that once seemed strange but became normal over the course of my years living with kids and pets. Here are 11 things that may seem perfectly normal to a parent like me:
You’ve told your sick child that you’ll “call the vet” to see if they can get her in.
You yell, “Get that leash off your little sister, NOW!” and it doesn’t even phase you— it’s just a typical day in your household.
You’ve asked your kids if they want dry food or wet food for dinner.
After using the bathroom, you’ve reminded your kids to “scoop.”
You call your kids by your pets’ names and vice versa. Every time. Sometimes they answer.
There’s always someone or something sitting in your favorite chair.
Easy-to-clean furniture and flooring. Enough said.
You know that “puppy dog eyes” are a tactic used by every species. You also know they’re effective.
Someone’s always hungry. Even if they just ate.
No matter what you’re wearing, you’ll end up with fur, drool or chocolate on it within minutes.
Privacy does not exist.
I have found that the key to handling all of these things is to adopt a more relaxed attitude, which is probably good for us anyway, don’t you think?
Keri Matthews, a mom of two, has worked in the ASPCA’s licensing department for more than five years. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Tom, her children, Gabriella and Tommy, and their Greyhound, Clyde.
We know our kids love our dog Clyde, and with Valentine’s Day on the way, we recently asked our daughter Gabriella what she loves best about having Clyde as our pet. Here’s what we heard:
“He plays with me.” This was her first response and the most touching. It showed us that she really does think of him as a friend—and that their bond is strong.
“I like to give him treats.” If Clyde could talk, this would be at the top of his list as well.
“Brushing him is fun.” Clyde loves to get brushed and Gabriella takes this job very seriously. Her toy hairdryer often makes an appearance.
“Going for walks.” We love to take Clyde for walks—Tommy laughs at Clyde walking most of the time, and Gabriella likes to help us put Clyde’s coat on.
In our house, love is having your dog on his bed next to you while you play. And for Clyde, love is spending his later years with the little people around him, weaving him into everything they do.
We can’t wait until our son Tommy is older, so he’ll be able to tell us what he loves best about Clyde, too. We will probably hear similar answers to Gabriella’s. And to us, that means we are teaching our kids to love and respect our animal friends. Happy Valentine’s Day!
By actively folding our dog, Mr. Happy, and our bird, Diva, into our daily lives, my husband Matt and I hope our daughter will become a compassionate lifelong animal lover and advocate for animal welfare. She is already learning the ropes of responsibility by feeding Mr. Happy and Diva each morning.
We’ve worked to strike a balance between encouraging our child to love our pets and maintaining the well-being of our whole family. Below are a few tips that have proven helpful for managing interactions between our daughter and our pets:
Enforce a Pets-Only Zone. Mr. Happy will retreat to a spot under our dining room table when he needs a break from the action. We worked with our daughter to help her understand that it’s important to respect Mr. Happy’s boundaries.
All Eyes on Active Play. When Mr. Happy and our daughter are in the same room, we put our smartphones away and keep attention on them.
Create Positive Play Opportunities. Each day we find many different ways for our daughter and Mr. Happy to interact. It can be as simple as blowing a kiss, or sitting on Matt’s lap or my lap to toss treats or toys to Mr. Happy. Our daughter’s favorite thing to do is make pretend food platters for Mr. Happy as seen in the photo above. Sometimes our daughter even tries to play hide-and seek-with our dog. While we taught our daughter that there is “no hugging, no kissing, no touching” Mr. Happy without a parent present, we give her multiple opportunities to pet him throughout the day.
Know Your Household Stress Points and Be Prepared. In my home, the weekday pre-work rush and the dinner hour are our stressful periods given the many tasks that need completion. Matt and I are hyper-aware of this challenge, and are both extra vigilant and use measures such as a baby gate to keep our daughter and Mr. Happy separated when needed.
Caroline Golon is a busy mom of two young girls and two rascally Persian rescue cats living in Columbus, Ohio. She’s passionate about animal welfare and creating happy households with both kids and pets. She’s a regular contributor toVetstreet.comand other pet-centric sites. You can read more about Caroline’s adventures with kids and pets at her site,Crayons and Collars.
Kids can be nuts. Add some pets to the mix and the craziness increases exponentially.
Aside from the pet hair and unidentifiable foodstuffs, random stickers and toothpaste stuck to your pants, here are a few telltale signs you’re living with a house of pets and kids:
Nose prints and handprints just below eye level You know how it looks like someone finger-painted clear hair gel on the glass of your windows and front door up to about three feet high, where it abruptly stops? Right. Somebody(ies) or something(s) have frequently had their greasy fingers/paws/noses up against that glass.
The good news is that since it’s below your eye level, you can conveniently ignore it…for a while.
Smelliest garbage can on the block Your trash guys hate you, especially in the summer. Your garbage can has little bags full of litter box scoops or poop-scoop contents. Even if you have small animals, the garbage is often full of shavings, dirty newspapers, puppy pads, cage liners and more. Add a few dirty diapers to the mix and it’s a malodorous recipe. You probably find yourself avoiding putting anything else in the trash and when you do, you hold your nose, throw the trash into the can and run.
An impeccably clean floor It’s a fact: kids are messy, messy eaters. But households with a resident dog typically have freakishly clean floors. The furry vacuum cleaner is better than the most expensive machine on the market. It’s ironic that the kids and pets destroy everything else in the home--but the floor? Pristine.
A less than perfect yard Grass won’t grow in your backyard? You’re not alone. Between the digging, running, jumping, sliding, roughhousing, football games, grass-killing sandboxes and baby pools, you just aren’t going to have a lovely turf. Get used to the bald spots and dog poop land mines and remember you’re making memories. Plus, you’ll have less grass to mow. Yay!