Horizon at Sandy Point

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Discipline and the dog

It's Sunday, and the curly-tailed dog wanders the house. He settles under the dining table, where it must be cooler than the porch. He lets us know when he needs to go outside - to use his bathroom along the fence as far as possible from us. I believe he relates to us at a very intuitive level. Whether or not he understands words spoken assertively, he responds to care and attention, intention and routine, and the occasional sharp command, "Don't...!" He is waiting at the door when we wake to let him out, or when we return home from an outing. He is polite with visitors, sitting until he is introduced. His wild antics seem reserved for the home crowd - when he races round the kitchen catching his tail, throwing his ragged toy in the air, grabbing my arm and shaking his head side to side as if he would tear it off (it might be hard to convince someone else that he's playing.)

Ranji ensures that he has some "discipline:" he must sit and shake hands before diving into the food bowl. He's bigger than the older dogs, but they are not backward to manners him with a rough growl and sharply bared teeth if he gets too familiar.
Like Hachiko, the legendary Japanese dog, a symbol for loyalty and devotion
Discipline is not my forte I've been told. Not on the job, nor in the home. I was/ am very likely a wimpy mom. Early in my life as a parent, I read somewhere that I should say no to a child only if what it wanted was dangerous (life threatening) or illegal; that I should make a practice of saying yes. I have given this idea a lot of thought over the years. It makes sense to allow a child to learn and grow through his/her own initiatives, mistakes and experience. It is more empowering if a person receives affirmative reinforcements. But it takes a tremendous reserve of "long brain" and discipline and communication (yes, so much talking!) and patience to set the stage for "yes" activity.

In the end, I feel as if my children brought me up. I have been lucky I believe. And I continue to learn from them.

The new dog is a different creature. He's not human (don't know why this is always said and meant as less than human when it actually means, he doesn't have language or some human needs) and should be taught to respond to discipline.  Therein lie our two basic modes of raising children - school and the military; or within the family with all the parental failings. Different combinations of these modes have different levels of success with different individuals - how scientific is that! What we do know though, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that dogs, and children, uncared, unloved, unsocialized, grow up in a meaningless world.

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