Monday, October 22, 2012

What Dogs Teach About Parenting

Toby visiting the HUB Family Resource Centre
Fort McMurray, Alberta
He was as excited to visit all the children as he was to see
tennis balls on the chairs.

Recently I had the pleasure of being on Family First Radio with Randy Rolfe- a parenting expert. We enjoyed a conversation about some of the lessons that our dog Toby taught us, that could be applied to parenting.  Here is how Randy and her team promoted the show:

"Some relationships are more difficult than others. Sometimes a friend or even a child can be difficult to handle. They can try your patience and seem incorrigible. Can we learn some tricks from our four-footed friends? My guest this week on Family First says absolutely! Charmaine Hammond is an international transformational speaker, author, and radio host, helping people live inspired, resilient lives, and she is a leading trainer in corporate North America, helping transform workplaces. Charmaine Hammond is the award winning and bestselling author of On Toby’s Terms and Toby The Pet Therapy Dog – and his hospital friends, and also Bounce Forward. She has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul - What I learned from the dog. She is now coauthoring a new book GPS Your Best Life. Her book On Toby’s Terms is currently in development to become a major motion picture! Get your whole family to listen in. Charmaine will be sharing Toby’s lessons."  You can listen to our conversation here:

So what did Toby the dog teach me about life, that could be applied to parents coping with their children's behaviour?

Patience. Toby taught me about patience, I discovered that I like quick results, and that waiting caused me to become restless and impatient. Because Toby was a dog who showed up in life full on in service to others, and 100% in the moment, I started to apply that approach.... patience really did become a virtue.

Patience in action.... coming home to this frequent shoe disaster tested our patience
but also inspired us to find different ways to prevent (well at least minimize) shoe disasters (e.g. less shoes in closet,
rewarding good behaviour)

Clear Communication. Often pet parents are frustrated with their pet's behaviour or are trying to correct behaviour, they speak in many sentences, not clearly communicating with their pet (our behaviourist Maggie pointed this out to me). When I learned to speak in short sound bites and with clear short sentences, Toby relaxed and could comprehend the direction, request or statement. Randy pointed out that the same rings true for children, often parents speak to children like little adults, instead of children. Clear communication helps the child (and pet) understand what is being requested of him/her.

Clear communication... Toby and I practised his famous "PAWdograph" so many times
 I used simple clear communication.  Eventually all I had to do was take the book and the stamp
and he knew exactly what came next...and demonstrated his excitement.

Persistence. Training your four legged family member takes time, focus, repetition and patience, and Randy shared that teaching children new skills requires the same from parents.  Change and learning takes time. Reward the behaviour you want to see and correct the behaviour you wish to change.

Toby eventually learned to dive though my husband's persistence, helping Toby practice, and
by the geese teasing Toby at the end of the dock. This is the closest Toby ever got to the geese
but by being persistent he overcame his reluctance to dive into the water. Once he learned, you couldn't stop him.

What have you learned from your pet? 

As you move into a new week, can you find opportunities to tighten up your communication so that it is clear and focused? Can you create opportunities for your pet to demonstrate wanted behaviours?

You can listen to the rest of my conversation with Family First Radio Host Randy Rolfe, at:

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