This is the second in a series of posts by Christie Robertson, who is preparing to welcome her first child in April. This month, we join Christie and her dog Molly on a learning journey they took together, and see how it helped to inform Christie’s ideas about asking for parenting advice.
“Molly, no. Stop. Bad dog. Heel! Eerrraaaaaaaargh!!” The leash has become a chain and Molly my jailer. My arm is wrenched ceaselessly from side-to-side by my unheeling dog who ravenously wants to go faster, farther and forever.
I pull back with a sharp tug only for my exhausted arm and aching hand to be yanked forward again by 50 pounds of jaunty puppy. The rational, calm, sane, adult part of me watches helplessly as I stop dead and begin a round of childlike foot stamping pouting and crying, “No, no, no, no! Bad dog!” A somewhat violent “I detest you” is whispered under my breath as I slouch in defeat. The local children I had imagined would come running, pushing past each other to be first to pet Molly, are hiding behind bushes and gates quivering in fear. And it’s not Molly that is scaring them.
I wipe the tears from my eyes and decide Molly can pull all she wants on the damn leash. I just don’t care anymore if she heels or not. I text my husband Matt a picture of Molly’s glorious win and continue the walk with Molly in the lead.
Who knew how frustrating it could be to own a dog. In a previous post I mentioned that dogs thrive on pack behaviour (they want to follow a leader). So why the heck is my dog so stubborn and wanting to lead me? And if I can’t train a dog to listen, and I had been trying for the past year, then is this a sign of my impending epic failure as a parent?
By the next day, once I had convinced myself that the dog was not, in fact, devil’s spawn and that I did still love her, I admitted I needed help. We had owned Molly for about a year and, until the tug-of-war incident, I was content to watch The Dog Whisperer, read books and figure this training thing out on my own. These strategies were obviously not working, so I enlisted the help of a local trainer.
After one session, Molly was recognizing that the leash existed (we were in fact tethered together, imagine that!). More sessions and practice and Molly was pausing and waiting for me whenever the leash got taut. Today, Molly still doesn’t heel right beside me, but I have learned it is all about setting clear expectations. I am happy that she is not pulling anymore and don’t push her further into learning the perfect heel. I also know what I could do if this were important to me.
Asking for help. What a simple yet often shunned part of learning. Why are we so proud as to think we can tackle complex, new experiences on our own? The main lesson I have taken from this experience is I shouldn’t be ashamed to seek assistance. This is especially true with raising children. Even though I have yet to hold my little bundle of joy in my hands, I have already begun asking my loved ones and friends for advice:
Diapers: cloth or disposable?
What do I really need in my nursery when I bring the child home?
How am I going to get through labour and is there any chance they can just knock me out and wake me up when it’s done?
What should I do on those days when I am mourning the loss of my freedom and feeling trapped?
How the heck do you get a baby to sleep through the night?
- Is it okay that right now I swing from happy-go-lucky to crazy mad woman in a matter of minutes and what’s the best way to avoid this during working hours?
And I don’t plan to stop asking questions once the baby is born. I have heard from others that advice about raising a child, solicited or not, can be diverse and confusing at times. But I figure the more information I have, the more likely I will be to make the correct choice for my child. Plus, I have my supportive husband Matt at my side. He is quick to defend and reassure me I’ve made the right choice when I’m beating myself after someone says to me, “Well, that’s not how I would go about it” or snidely retorts “You could try it I guess. Good luck.” Luckily these comments are rare and I have an encouraging spouse. Now if if only I can get Matt to stop undoing all my dog training when he not only lets Molly jump up on him without permission, but praises her for it!
I know a dog is not as complex as a child, but a few lessons from an expert gave me the confidence to figure out for myself what I needed to do. And the benefit of the child experts surrounding me is, unlike my local dog whisperer, they not only love me: they are free!