Taking Dogs Seriously: How to Apply Popular Parenting Techniques to Your Dog

My dog Violet the Screaming Dog has a game she likes to play on our walks. It’s called, “Oh God, What’s in My Hand!?”

It works like this:

We go for a walk, and I eventually look down to find that she is chewing on something. I shove my hand in her mouth to pull it out, and immediately think, “Oh God, what’s in my hand??”

I usually give her a firm “No!” when I see that she is about to eat some random item off of the ground, but it is clearly not dissuading her. I remembered back to my mom once telling me about this parenting style called “Taking Children Seriously,” (TCS) which believes that you shouldn’t make children do anything against their will, and asserts that most interactions with kids and parents are based on coercion.

Apparently there are online TCS parenting forums and they are full of parents who don’t believe in saying “no” to their kids. They post questions about how to “inspire” their kids to not do things, like play with knives or color on the walls (those are 100% true examples), without saying “the n-word.” (yes, to them, “No” is as bad as the real n-word)

So I thought maybe that is my problem, I am bullying Violet by saying “no,” and I have made her terrified of me. So much so that she is stress-eating random crap off of the ground. I need to just inspire her to make the right decisions.

So on our walk today I looked down and, as per usual, Violet was chewing on something. I pulled it out of her mouth and it was a freaking animal bone of some sort!!! I disgustedly threw it on the sidewalk and knelt down to Violet’s eye-level.

“Violet, honey, I’d like to encourage you to not eat random stuff that you find on the sidewalk. I would like for you to strive to be a lady, and to keep the values consistent with which we are teaching you. When you eat stuff off of the sidewalk, it reflects poorly on the family.”

Then I told her that I love her and gave her a hug because I’ve watched a lot of Super Nanny and that is what she says to do after a scolding, so I figured that it could not hurt.

Unidentifiable animal bone.

Unidentifiable animal bone.

After we got back to the house and were walking up the driveway, I noticed that she was chewing on something AGAIN! I stuck my hand in her mouth, yet again, and pulled out the same damn animal bone! We must have passed it on our way back and she sucked it right back up. I concluded that, while I was encouraging the first time, I was not inspirational enough.

I again got down on her level:

“Violet, honey, when you force mommy to stick her hand in your mouth and touch dead animal bones, you are exposing her to things like salmonella, e. coli, or worse, AIDS. I would love for you to be inspired to not give mommy AIDS”

Note: I know that I cannot get AIDS from a dead animal bone, but Violet doesn’t know that and I just didn’t feel that she was grasping the severity of the situation. I don’t think that lying to your dog technically counts as bullying so long as the lie is said in a loving and supportive manner.

We got back to the house and, like Super Nanny says to do, I put Violet in the Naughty Chair. But we don’t have a designated Naughty Chair, per se, so I just stuck her on the couch and reaffirmed that she was naughty.

Violet in timeout on the Naughty Couch

Violet in timeout on the Naughty Couch

I wasn’t sure how else to get the message across so I did some searching online and came across this Dr. Sears person who seems to be some sort of parenting expert. Dr. Sears gave an anecdote of his own kid misbehaving in the house, and when he noticed the poster on her bedroom wall that featured a kitten hanging from a branch with the saying, “Lord protect me from myself,” it reminded him that his kid just needed a change of environment.

I figured that bringing Violet inside from the walk was a change in environment, but I couldn’t be so sure since she doesn’t tend to eat things she is not supposed to once in the house anyway. I tested her by placing a bunch of shoes in a circle around her to see if she felt the urge to eat them, but she just stared at me kind of terrified like I was performing some kind of ritual. I finally just gave up, grabbed the cat and held him in the air screaming, “LORD PROTECT ME FROM MYSELF!!!” and flipped on the TV to watch Ellen.

And to her credit, Violet hasn’t eaten anything bad all day. She also hasn’t left the shoe circle.

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