“Hey, wake up.”
“It’s your turn to take Mr. Kermit outside.”
“Oh, right. Just five more minutes.”
Two minutes later: BARK BARK BARK.
I’ve heard plenty of stories over the years of people who’ve used pet ownership as a test run for baby ownership. Is ‘ownership’ the right word? Maybe not, but the best pet owners treat their dogs with the same level of care they would a newborn baby.
Well, almost. But the truth remains that a dog can teach you and your significant other a lot about how you’d fare as parents.
1. Babies and Dogs Get Hungry
When a baby is hungry, he or she will let you know about it. Dogs operate on more of a schedule, but they need to be fed just like new tiny humans. The good news is that instinct will allow dogs to eat on their own, so it’s an easy warmup compared with the demands of a hungry infant who just wants to throw their food all over the kitchen.
2. Natural Business
Scooping up dog waste on the sidewalk might not seem like a lot of fun at first (or ever, really), but it pales in comparison to the experience of changing a baby after the deed has been done. Coping with a dog’s natural habits will break down any previously held discomfort for the act, so when the time comes to deal with a child, it won’t be so bad. Hopefully.
3. The Art of Teaching
Raising a dog and raising a child isn’t so different in the early years. Teaching both to behave in a certain way is based off a simple system of rewards. Want to teach your dog to sit? Use treats. Want to teach your child to clap? Perform the action yourself and then smother them with praise and affection when they’re successful. Children will grow out of this stage, but by this time you’ll have an understanding of how they learn and how you can communicate best with them. Pets? Just keep using treats.
4. The Art of Discipline
No one is saying that kids and pets react the same way to different types of discipline. Heck, different kids react differently – wait, the same child can react completely differently one minute to the next. Since kids lack the same logic centres as their adult counterparts, it’s tricky to teach them to respond to reason. What pets can teach you about discipline, however, has more to do with how you react to something bad, rather than how your pet or your eventual child will react.
5. Learning More About Your Parenting Style
Finally, the real benefit of pet ownership before owning a child is analyzing what type of parent you’ll be. Will you be patient? Supportive? Rigid? Creative? These are all attributes you might not be aware you possessed before taking pet ownership for a spin. And in the case of both dog rearing and people rearing, ‘a spin’ in each case is a life-long commitment to providing the care and attention required by your human offspring or your furry canine child.
Pet ownership teaches you what parenting is like when you don’t feel like being a parent. It’s in these instances we learn the most about how we’re truly going to react to the challenges of parenthood.
Owning a pet teaches us responsibility, compassion and leadership. Not to the extent required by actual children, but it gives us a headstart.
Just remember, once a child does come along, you’ve still got a responsibility to keep your dog happy. And by that point, chances are you’ll be well prepared for the job.