Children are wonderful mimics. Mom adjusts her shirt a particular way; she looks over to find little Susie doing the same thing. Mom scolds young Johnny and as soon as her back is turned, Susie mimics her -complete with expressions, words and tone of voice. Mom isn’t the only one mimicked, either. Dad is out tinkering with the car and Johnny watches closely, then proceeds to “work” on the lawnmower. And if Dad says a dirty word when the wrench slips. . .well, children mimic only too well!
Unfortunately, children CAN mimic some of Mom and Dad’s bad habits. If the parents mistreat or neglect the family dog or cat, then those children are going to grow up believing that their parents behaved properly and that’s the way to treat animals.
As a professional trainer, I encourage the entire family to attend their dog’s training class. While one family member trains the dog, the others can watch. Sometimes it can be a bit noisy, and sometimes there is quite a crowd, but to me, the benefits out-weigh the problems.
First of all, when the entire family attends, everyone can see exactly what is going on with the dog’s training. . .what to do and what not to do. The whole family gets to be involved; it’s not just Dad doing the training with his dog, but instead it’s the family’s dog.
But more importantly to me, the children reveal to me exactly how the dog is normally treated. If an adult hits a dog, even if it’s done in anger, they may feel instinctively that it was not the proper way to train and will hide that in a class situation. I, as an instructor, may never see it. But the child that sees his parent treat the dog in such a manner will think that it is the proper way to do it and if the dog misbehaves before class, the child will probably reveal to me the method that is used at home to correct the dog, whether it is by hitting or screaming or kicking.
When the entire family attends class, I can make sure that the kids are learning as well as Mom, Dad and the dog. The entire family can learn how to teach the dog and what is expected of the dog and of themselves. The kids also need to learn not to pull tails and poke eyes. They need to learn that it’s cruel to tease a dog. They learn that the dog needs fresh water, good food, grooming, regular exercise and play time. Because this lesson on dog care is incorporated into normal lesson plans (and really doesn’t take much time!), it doesn’t take any time away from the so-called “regular” training.
I cope with the distractions from extra people attending class and have patience with them because our future rests with these kids. Some day these children are going to be grown up and raising their own families. If they have remembered anything that I have taught them, then they will be raising their children to care for their pets properly. Instead of being a vicious circle, it becomes a caring one.
©1990 Liz Palika