My youngest looks up from the toilet, eyes eager, and says “Treat?”. And it hits me. Having a toddler is eerily similar to having a puppy. The bribery. The praise. The anxiety that they won’t ‘perform’ in public as they should. Who knew having a dog before having kids really DOES prepare you for kids.
Obviously, having a dog is not the same as having kids. I’m certainly the first one to roll my eyes when someone suggests that. But you can’t deny that similar behavioral tactics can transfer from dog to toddler.
And as I am sitting squarely in the middle of toddler hell with one who is edging out of the toddler phase and one who is two going on 20, I find myself comparing the aspects of training a puppy to raising a toddler. And there are certainly some similarities worth mentioning.
- It’s a shit show, literally. One of the hardest parts of having a puppy is getting them housebroken.You are counting down the days until you can be finished with the pee soaked puppy pads and 2 a.m. walks. Potty training a toddler isn’t so different. Ditching the diapers is a huge milestone, but it comes at a steep price. The use of treats, whether it be food or toys, comes with the territory. I’ve been known to dangle a cracker out in front of my kids to lead them to the porcelain throne. “Come here little Johnny! Don’t you want a treat?” Pavlov himself would be proud. Oh, and I’ve been know to use the phrase “Don’t forget to pee the toddler!” just as you would to remind someone to let the dog out before you leave. So, yeah, pretty much the same thing.
- When you set out to buy a puppy you have a vision in your head of what your life with a dog will look like. Long runs with your buddy by your side. Perfectly obedient as you chat with friends at the local coffee shop. Evening snuggles on the couch as you catch up on Netflix. It’s similar for moms before having kids. Most dream of the perfect play dates at the park where she can talk to her friends about the latest Game of Thrones episode and her little one plays quietly by themselves. And they envision a serene family brunch every Sunday with zero tantrums and polite children.Reality is much different. You may expect a golden retriever but end up birthing a crazy chihuahua instead. Obedient? Nah, independent to boot. Snuggles on the couch? Nah, spastic AF.
- No! Don’t chew on my shoes. No! Don’t piss on the rug. No! Don’t stick that in your mouth. Am I talking to the puppy or a toddler? Who knows. But I think we can agree that one of the first words they both learn fast is ‘no’.
- Who here has tried to hide healthy food among the rest of the crap kids love to eat? Now, tell me you didn’t pull that same trick when you had to give your puppy medicine. You didn’t know it at the time but wrapping a pill with cheese was just preparing you for years of trying to sneak veggies into the bellies of your toddlers. Nope, those aren’t tiny broccoli floret pieces in your mac ‘n cheese. Just eat it, ok?
- Have you ever noticed that dog toys and baby toys are eerily similar? The dental bone that has grooves specifically to help with tooth decay in dogs looks like it would be perfect for the teething toddler in your life. And let’s be real and admit you have definitely let your kid chew on a dog toy and your dog chew on a baby toy. Not in a purposeful way, but you don’t exactly jump up to remove the toy quickly because you just realized it’s the first time they’ve been quiet in hours so you’re just going to roll with it. It’s ok. Sharing is caring. Plus, aren’t dogs teeth cleaner than humans anyway?
Hands down the best similarity between raising a toddler and training a puppy is their endless love for their parents. Despite our flaws (and we’ve got ’em!) our kids love us. Even on our worst days we are enough for them. Whether it’s a cute furry face or a pudgy little toddler greeting us after a long day, they make everything worth it.
Except pee pads and diapers. No one wishes to be in that phase again.