May 18, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 23:00
For years I collected parenting books, from Dr. Spock to Dr. Seuss, poring over them to find the perfect formula for fatherhood, that elusive alchemy of wisdom, discipline, love and high blood pressure.
Even though I memorized every imaginable tactic, my kids did what they wanted anyway, and when they got older, I abandoned my crusade and went to the used book store to recoup some of my investment, but the guy tossed the books aside and grumbled, “I can’t buy these.”
“Why? Doesn’t everyone want to be a better parent?”
“This stuff changes every time someone comes up with a crazy new theory.” So I went to the recycling center instead and consigned all that wasted wisdom to the Dumpster.
After years of parenting, I turned to the more rewarding pastime of pet ownership and tried to transfer my skills as a father into caring for turtles, goldfish and parakeets, before moving up to dogs, which is where I am now, having accumulated a library of books about dog obedience.
I suppose I should watch shows like Dog Whisperer, but I don’t have a TV and refuse to expose my puppy to all that violence, not to mention Snooki and The Situation, because she might end up barking with a Jersey accent.
Since dogs descended from wolves, traditional trainers say dog obedience is a battle of wills, and we intelligent human beings must show them who is boss, which sounds a lot like parenthood, or even worse, marriage.
Some experts suggest the best approach is to think like a dog. This means you have to start out slowly by sniffing fire hydrants and eventually embrace other canine behavior, such as chewing barbecue-flavored pigs’ ears.
They also recommend getting inside your dog’s mind, which is something I try to do by going down on all fours and staring pensively into my puppy’s eyes until she cocks her head to the side, as if to ask, “Are you OK? Do you require medication?”
“Why did you ignore the wee-wee pad?” I say in my soothing therapist voice. “If I give you a treat, will you apologize and do better next time?”
Rewarding good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior is my new approach, although I did that with my daughters and pretty soon the credit cards maxed out.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to ignore bad behavior and walk away when the puppy chews my slippers, but you’re not supposed to give dogs negative attention.
When she started chewing on the couch, however, I had enough of the touchy-feely techniques and rolled up a newspaper and whacked it against my hand to put the fear of God in her, the same way my father did when our old mutt Blackie brought a squirrel into the dining room and dropped it at his feet at suppertime.
But times and dogs have changed, and before I could blink, the puppy jumped up, snatched the paper out of my hand and ran away with it. Obedience, I guess, has become an outdated concept for man and beast alike.
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