This week our family welcomes its first puppy.
For years I’ve rolled my eyes at the suggestion that raising a dog is similar to raising a child. Often, this comparison comes from people who don’t have children, making scoffing a requirement.
But, having spent the past several weeks planning to bring a puppy into the home, I’ve come to realize that maybe — just maybe — I’ve been too quick to dismiss the similarities. There are a few.
Consider upfront costs, for example.
Dog babies, much like human babies, require a ton of stuff, and as a result, are really, really expensive. My dining room table is buried under bags of dog food, dishes, treats, toys, bedding, crates (one for home, and one for travel), and an endless supply of puppy potty training essentials.
And nobody — not a single person — threw me a puppy shower, so I’m on the hook for all of it.
Then there are the late nights spent coming to terms with the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m bound to screw it up and raise an asshole dog that sniffs crotches, jumps on children, pees everywhere, barks at everything and eats cats and postal workers.
As motherhood approached, I spent many nights tossing and turning, and staring at the ceiling fretting about the same things — minus the crotch-sniffing and cat-eating, of course.
And let’s not forget the unsolicited and often conflicting advice.
“You must follow Cesar Millan’s method, it’s amazing.”
“DO NOT follow Cesar Millan’s method. It’s terrible.”
“Don’t use pee pads.”
“Do use pee pads.”
“You must clicker train. Immediately.”
“Do NOT give him a human name. He is NOT a human.”
When this advice is launched at me, I can’t help but think back to the unsolicited and often passive aggressive advice I fielded during my advent into motherhood, some nine years ago.
“DO NOT give him a soother. You’ll never break him of it.”
“Disposable diapers are great for people who hate the Earth. Do you hate the Earth?”
“No screen time. EVER. Until he’s at least eight.”
“Keep him rear facing until he reaches puberty.”
“Bottle feeding is an option. If you’re terrible.”
“DON’T swaddle him.”
“DO swaddle him.”
“DON’T let him cry it out. EVER!”
“Jeez, just let him cry it out already!”
When I was growing up everyone had dogs, and all any dog needed was a collar, a leash, a bed, a bowl and a belly rub or two. Instead of pee pads and poop bags we had newspapers and shovels. Dogs licked plates, ate scraps, chewed ham bones, and gobbled whatever kibble was on special that week.
Somehow, even without all of the gadgets and canine behavior modification methods, dogs were amazing. They protected us, loved us, and we returned the favour.
Dog ownership has become riddled with pitfalls. The stakes are higher, the expectations greater.
But I’m convinced that, as with raising children, sometimes the simple things matter more than the gadgets and the gimmicks; simple things like consistency, routine, encouragement and praise.
There. Now it’s your turn to roll your eyes.