When we adopted our puppy, Scout, a lot of our friends thought it was a bad idea. Sure, they agreed she was adorable and sweet, and that she needed a great home.
“But you have a toddler,” my friends said. “A toddler!”
It’s true. I have a kindergartner and an almost two year-old. They’re rambunctious and exhausting and wonderful—kind of like puppies, as a matter of fact.
Kids are rambunctious and exhausting and wonderful—kind of like puppies.
Was it a crazy time to get a dog? Probably. But it turns out that having kids made it easier to train Scout, not harder. No, really. Because kids and puppies are pretty much the same. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at this list we put together in honor of National Kids and Pets Day.
1. Slobber is a way of life.
When Scout was teething, she chewed just about every stuffed animal in the house. My toddler was also cutting teeth, and he chewed up all the same toys. (I’m pretty sure that means he has a stronger immune system.)
2. It’s all about the routine.
Pretty much every parenting book on the market talks up the importance of a regular routine for kids, especially when it comes to eating and sleeping. Puppy training advice also recommends consistency. Let’s keep those occasional 10 p.m. bedtimes between us, shall we?
3. One word: poop.
Between diaper changes and scooping dog poop, half my day is taken up by someone’s bodily functions. My conversations are, too. “Did he poop?” I ask my babysitter. “What was her poop like?” I ask my dog walker.
Half my day is taken up by someone’s bodily functions.
4. You get what you reinforce.
If Scout whines until I throw her toy, she learns that whining gets me to play. Replace Scout with my five year-old son, and the same principle applies. Now, I’m not perfect. Let’s just say that both the kid and the dog have whining down to a very fine art.
5. High-quality food gives them a shinier coat.
And a sharper mind, or so I hear. Less sugar, more protein, fatty acids, a variety of nutrients: what’s good for dogs is good for kids. At least I know it’s healthy for my toddler to get a nibble of Scout’s food once in a while. Er, it might have happened.
6. Praise is a powerful tool.
Positive dog training proponent Victoria Stillwell advises positive reinforcement and avoiding physical intimidation or fear. Parenting.com suggests the same. When I catch my 5 year-old playing quietly and not torturing his brother, I try to reward it. By the same token, I give Scout a treat when she sees the garbage truck and stops to look at me, rather than losing her mind.
7. Baby gates are your friend.
Goodbye, stylish decor. Hello, multiple gates that must constantly be moved to block the little beasts from mischief.
8. Exercise them, or be sorry.
Seriously, my kids and my dog have to run. Every day. A lot.
9. Separation anxiety: the struggle is real.
Nothing is more heartbreaking than my kid and my dog crying when I go to work in the morning. Good thing they both recover quickly, unlike me.
10. There’s no such thing as “too many pictures.”
My Facebook wall is basically 60% pictures of my kids, 30% pictures of my dog, and 10% pictures of them together. Because everyone needs to see the cuteness. Right? Right.
My Facebook wall is basically 60% pictures of my kids, 30% pictures of my dog, and 10% pictures of them together.
11. Walking anywhere takes forever.
Scout loves it when we take her for a walk. She also wants to go sniff that bush across the street right now, thank you very much. Similarly, my toddler loves to hold my hand—until he sees a fire hydrant, or that tricycle that isn’t ours, or, you know, a half-eaten sandwich in the dirt. Which he will eat. Just like the dog.
12. You worry about them when you’re gone.
I don’t want just anyone watch my kids or my dog. When I’m not with them, I wonder all the time what they’re doing and if they’re okay. It’s super-important to me that they have personalized, loving care.
13. You buy them too much stuff.
I can’t walk into a pet store without buying twelve different chew toys—yak’s milk, organic rubber, lamb lung, why not?—just like I can’t walk down a book aisle without picking up a ‘Star Wars’ coloring book. Yes, there are already a million chew toys and just as many ‘Star Wars’ coloring books at my house. Why do you ask?
14. Dressing them up shouldn’t be so fun.
As soon as we get Scout into a sweater or a raincoat, we have to take her picture. The same is true when we manage to wrangle the boys into clean clothes.
15. Treats are magic.
Scout will do anything for a chewy nubbin of peanut buttery goodness, and so will my kids. Unless it’s putting on their shoes in a timely manner, in which case, I have to bust out the chocolate chips.
Scout will do anything for a chewy nubbin of peanut buttery goodness, and so will my kids.
16. You have to accept them as they are.
There’s a popular parenting book called Raise the Child You’ve Got—Not the One You Want, and that advice seems as true for dogs as it is for humans. The better we understand their likes, dislikes, and personalities, the better we can train them to be good citizens. And the more we love them for their quirky, happy selves.
The Bottom Line
Kids and puppies can be totally draining, I’m not going to lie. But they’re pretty amazing, too. Watching Scout run around the yard with my two boys is like a study in joy. I’m so glad they have each other, and I don’t regret our decision to adopt a puppy at this point in our lives. After all, I was already getting up at four in the morning to deal with somebody’s pee.