I’m going to say something controversial here: I think you should treat people like dogs.
Of course, it may only be controversial based on how you treat your dog.
Obedience School and Rolled Up Newspapers
I’ve had several dogs in my life, most of whom were part of my adult life. I grew up understanding the way to treat dogs was to punish them when they did something bad and give them treats when they did something good.
I used this method to train Misty, one of the most well-behaved dogs I’ve ever been blessed to enjoy life with. My wife at the time and I enrolled her in obedience class. She did exceptionally well.
I remember when I was training Misty to stay when we were at home. I would get 30 feet away from her and down a hill where she couldn’t see me and she would wait patiently. When I said, “come”, she ran like her tail was on fire. She was so happy, and I was so proud of her. I petted her and praised her like nobody’s business, and she loved it. At her graduation, the trainer said that in his 20 years of training she was the most well behaved dog he had ever seen.
Back then, I employed everything I learned from the time I was a kid. For instance, when Misty had an accident, I tried rubbing her nose in it. I tried the rolled up newspaper. I tried punishing her. Eventually it worked.
Or did it?
We often look at two events tied together and think “this one caused that one.” Misty was a good pooch. She had accidents. I punished her. She eventually stopped having accidents.
The punishments obviously caused her to stop having accidents. Right?
The funny thing about life is that you’re constantly inundated with new information. It’s our job to evaluate it wisely and alter our understanding when we learn more. One such piece of information is that dogs don’t want to go in the house. They simply can’t help it and they eventually grow out of it (unless there is some other issue at play).
So with Zara, Cristi and I decided not to punish her for accidents. We did go out with her when she was young and each time she went to the bathroom we gave her a treat and praised her. But we didn’t punish the accidents. The worst we did is sometimes, perhaps after she had an accident directly after going outside, we told her “no”.
Wouldn’t you know it: one day she just stopped having accidents in the house. In fact, it seemed to happen exceptionally quickly. Maybe she always wanted to do it the right way, but struggled to do it. Maybe that’s why we should treat people like dogs.
How to Treat People Like Dogs
People and dogs have a lot in common. We all want to be loved. We all want to do most things well. What we struggle with is belief in ourselves. We don’t do things because we don’t think we can. If you knew you could paint like Michelangelo, wouldn’t you do it right now?
Maybe we’re ready to do the right thing, we just need someone to treat us like dogs. Here’s what I mean:
- Praise Reinforces: Dogs love to be praised for doing what they should do. It helps them know they are doing the right thing. People are the same way. What’s wrong with telling someone “thank you” or “I appreciate this”?
- Punishment Hurts: The thing about punishment is it can tax the trust between you and your dog. Often it’s unnecessary, like when they have an accident. The better approach is to remove the dog from a situation or remove the items that the dog is jeopardizing. Similarly with people, they often act out from pain or hurt. They may need to be removed from a situation, but what they really need is understanding.
- Affection Is Awesome: Dogs don’t just need praise and pets when they’ve behaved like you want. They sometimes need it just because. People are the same way. Telling someone why they’re great just because and let them know they are okay as they are can often make someone’s day.
It’s funny how often we are so great to our dogs and we can be so mean to other people. We often wouldn’t treat our dogs the way we treat the people in our lives. Today is a great day to treat people like dogs with kindness and appreciation, comfort, and encouragement.