Who is training who?

We got a puppy. And he’s very smart. He already learned several tricks, like how to escape from the backyard in several different places. He’s very quick to train. So far, he’s trained me to give him treats whenever he asks for it.

As for me training him, well, I’m pretty sure that I’ve undone what little training he had before he came to us.

For example, he will be barking at the neighbors or their dogs or a squirrel or the breeze or a ghost or something invisible, and I will yell at him to come and sit. He will obey me, sitting patiently, not barking. As a reward, I give him a treat. So now he knows that barking means he gets a treat.

You just can’t train a dog to stop doing something he wants to do. Maybe you can distract him for a while, or guilt him into submission, but there is always a crazy look in a dog’s eyes that loves you so much he will destroy the world for you.

Maybe I don’t know how to train a dog right, but I do know how to train a person right. That’s because my wife and I are taking the “Love and Logic” parenting classes offered by the American Falls School District. The classes show how to get your kids to do good things, hopefully for the rest of their lives.

Of course, when you come down to it, training a dog or a kid is not so different. You reward good behavior and punish bad behavior, all the time showing you love them unconditionally. Only you don’t rub your kids on top of their heads. They complain about it. Believe me, I know.

But dogs are smarter than kids, or maybe kids are smarter, but dogs are easier to train. If you tell a dog to sit, or you won’t give him a treat, he sits. If you tell a kid you won’t give her a treat unless she behaves, she might throw a fit for 17 hours straight. The idea with the program is that if you wait out the 17 hours, the kid will finally get the message and start behaving better.

I really have enjoyed the classes. There is one flaw though. It isn’t the program or the children. It’s the parents. How do you end up with the patience for 17 hours of fits?

Our solution was to buy a dog. Then when the dog starts chewing on the furniture, you can say at least my kids don’t do that particular behavior. Peeing on the floor though, well, that’s a tossup.

Nothing teaches you more patience than a dog. That means, of course, nothing tries your patience more than a dog. Combine the dog and four kids, and by now my wife and I should be the most patient people on the planet.

We should be, but that is not always the case. It’s a work in progress. We might think we are training them, but in the end it’s them training us. I still have a ways to go before I learn that patient lesson. Hopefully the dog is patient enough with me until I get it down.

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