Understanding and Appreciating: What Children (and Puppies) Really Want

My son is almost two years old and he has a toy chest full of goodies: colorful, safe, interactive, educational, appropriate. And he walks (almost) right by that chest and heads for his two favorite playthings: a one-quart saucepan and an ornate brass candle snuffer. Both are metal, cool to the touch and satisfyingly noisy. If he could talk, I know he’d tell me “Listen Mom, forget the stuffed animals and plastic gadgets…just hand over what you’re holding.” It’s all he really wants.

And so while the value of my time is no longer measured in book contracts signed or appointments made, the epiphanies gleaned from my day-to-day life with two growing kids is no less gratifying. Guiding and nurturing my children—and sometimes struggling to understand them—inspires me to bring a similar light to the dog world.

Puppyhood conditioning is the secret to a happy dog and a happy home life. It should be fun for both of you—not a chore and not a battle of wills. A well-adjusted dog is not the product of lesson upon lesson with a trained professional. A well-adjusted dog is a well-adjusted puppy—grown up. Like children, early conditioning and understanding will help avoid future heartache and frustration.

Training a dog is both a necessity and a gift (to your dog) but please start early. Your puppy is going to nip. Chew. Pee. The earlier you have a plan in place—appropriate household structures and reactions to normal behaviors and needs—the better. In my work, I see puppies as young as eight weeks. Families learn simple guidelines to help understand and direct their puppies on the road to happy doghood.