I’ve learned many things from having a new puppy. The most important being that there is a very big difference between raising puppies and raising children.
Yes, I know, that sounds like it should be obvious. But that’s the problem. I don’t think it is. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.
After all, puppies and babies are both bundles of joy that we love to cuddle and kiss and snuggle.
And they both need us to dote on them, love them and teach them how to live as members of our society.
Like many people do, I often think of my new puppy as the second baby I never had. And I often treat him that way too.
So what’s the problem?
Recently, a dog trainer gave me an excellent piece of advice—decide what kind of adult dog I want my adorable puppy to grow up to be and train him to be that. So I decided that I would train Paco-puppy to become a champion momma’s boy and cuddle-bug.
And that’s when it hit me.
While we do treat puppies and children similarly, it isn’t so much a big deal that we treat dogs like babies but rather that we sometimes treat our children like pets. And that’s a problem. Not so much for the puppies but for the children.
For although raising puppies and raising babies have much in common, the end goals are different.
Puppies are our pets, our beloved companions. They belong to us.
They are ours to mold and form into the adults we want them to be.
We teach them obedience so that when they grow up they will come when called, do as we tell them to do and do what we want them to do.
But unlike puppies our children do not belong to us. They are not our pets. They are not meant to be our long term companions.
We’re not supposed to raise them to do as we tell them to do or to become the adults we want them to be.
We’re supposed to provide them a foundation so that they can grow up to become who they want to be and fly, not in the direction we tell them to go, but in the direction they choose.
I struggled with this when my son graduated from high school and headed off to college. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I wanted him to be like my puppy and not an adult who was no longer my baby boy.
Fortunately, although it took a while, it finally did sink in that my son’s life was never mine to plan and the direction of his flight never mine to choose.
When they are young, both puppies and children are ours to cuddle and snuggle and kiss to our heart’s content.
But when they grow up, only the puppies are ours to keep.
Yet although I miss the baby who was once mine, when my son took flight he left me with something even better—the joy and delight of a man who is not my pet or my companion but my equal and my friend.
Yes, puppies and babies are a lot alike.
But there is one important difference.
Puppies are supposed to grow up and come when called.
Children are supposed to grow up and fly away.