Habit Training: Dogs vs. Kids

Dear Reader,

Our family recently acquired a puppy, an eight-week-old, fresh from his mother, basset hound. He is very cute. Like babies, God has to make them that way so you will put up with their antics when they are little.

So I have been reading dog-training books and thinking about habit-training in dogs and how it is alike and how it differs from habit-training our kids.

On one hand, habit-training is habit-training, and there are principles from my reading of Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on the subject that I can apply to a dog as well as to a chid. Like that it is better to start a good habit than to have to correct  a bad one. And that if one just does something enough times it will become habit. I am hoping this applies to not pooping on my kitchen floor as we are spending most of our days outside to not even give the dog a chance to have accidents inside.

The dog-training book I read even talked about how it is better to have the dog choose to do what you want him to so that you are for instance, not dragging him on the end of his leash but he wants to follow you because perhaps you are holding a treat which smells good. So too Charlotte Mason would say that we shouldn’t continually nag our children but we need to find ways to make them do the remembering and pursue whatever habit we wish them to acquire.

But dogs are not people and children are. So there are differences. Charlotte is very big on not violating the personness of the child. But with dogs we don’t have that issue. So my dog book says that you teach your dog that you are in charge partly by controlling when he can pee and poop. We have considered on and off a potty patch which if you haven’t heard is like Astroturf that sits in our house so your dog has a  place to go without you having to take him out. My friend has this system for her little dog and raves about it. And one thing she said to me about it is “I wouldn’t want to have to wait for someone to tell me when I can go so I don’t want to do that to my dog.” But if my dog book is right, she is making a fatal flaw here in applying how she feels as a human to an animal that is not a person.

But all that made me think about the public schools and how they often control when their students can go to the bathroom. Of course it may be disruptive to have students continually getting up and down because they say they need to go. (Do schools still do that? I know children with type 1 diabetes like my daughter often have it written into their care plans that they can go to the bathroom whenever they need to.) But what does it say when we try to control that for another person? If the dog book is right, then the teachers are trying to show themselves as masters to the pupils by controlling their bodily functions. This is, I believe, what some famous proponents of unschooling have said. I also have a vague memory of some book in which a character went to a progressive school where kids were allowed to go to the bathroom whenever they needed to. Radical idea, huh? Does anyone know what book I am thinking of? I can’t remember where I read it myself.

So those are my rambling thoughts as I stand in ym front yard at 5am waiting for someone else to go.



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