Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ten ways my dog is like a toddler, and three ways he is not.

Sleepy boy
The other afternoon as Kane slept, I suddenly realized that it all seemed very familiar. Life with our one-year-old dog was surprisingly like life with a human toddler. Here's how.

1. Naps are very important. Kane takes three naps a day: one after his morning walk, one in the afternoon, and then a third after dinner. If he doesn't get these naps, such as when we have people coming and going, he becomes very hyperactive and annoying, and more inclined to bark, jump up, or even growl.

2. He thrives on routines. Related to the need for naps, he does best with our predictable schedule: quiet morning at home, long walk after lunch, one or two errands in the afternoon, good nap, dinner, nap, bedtime. On days when I've added a morning outing or have interrupted the afternoon nap, he is restless and needs lots of attention.

Run, Kane, run!
3. He has hidden stores of energy. He may seem quite sedate, but as soon as he gets outside, that boy is a bundle of energy. I've watched him leaping around in the park (on his 25-foot "lunge line"), bouncing through the snow like a rabbit, and marvelled at his stamina when I've been ready for a hot bath and bed.

I love how he uses his paws with his soft toys.
4. Everything goes in his mouth. Especially if it looks like a stick. You'd be surprised how many things look like sticks. And he does not simply carry it around or bring it to me to play fetch with. No, he chews that wood until it is pulp. Or at least, slivers. I think we need to invest in veterinary insurance.

5. He loves physical affection. Just as a toddler will come up and show you her favourite beanie baby, Kane will bring us his latest chew-toy to play fetch. Or he will nuzzle his head under my wrist while I'm trying to type. Often, he will persist until I get down on the floor with him for a belly rub and snuggle. And then he is in puppy heaven.

He has brought his chicken to me, laid it on my lap, and wants to play. Can you tell?
6. He is a potentially destructive force of nature. While human toddlers wreak havoc by sliding PBJ sandwiches into DVD players or, you know, giving your laptop a drink of juice because it looked thirsty, Kane simply doesn't realize how big he is. He will throw himself in the direction he wants to go and then just sliiiiiide towards whatever solid object will stop him. Table? China cabinet? Person? Tree? That's 60 pounds of muscle and bone coming at you!

(We are very fortunate that Kane only once tried chewing furniture. That ended after I painted the rocking chair's rockers with hot sauce.)

7. The dirt and mess, they abound! Toys, hair (oh, my, the hair! - better since we had him groomed), leashes, brushes, food dishes, gates on the stairs . . . the entire house is claimed by his existence, it seems.

He sure looks Lab in this picture. He isn't that large, though; it's an optical illusion.
8. I feel like I've forgotten something when he's not with me. The other day, I was in the car and started talking to the back seat as if he were there. Haven't found myself doing that since the kids were young.

9. He is amused by the same game for hours on end. Forget toddlers dropping things off the high chair just to watch a grown-up pick it up, Kane can play fetch with his squeaky chicken endlessly. Which would be fine except that he likes to chew the chicken between fetches and it gets incredibly slimy.

10. Everyone has an opinion to share. I couldn't take my babies out to the mall without someone telling me that I should have a hat on her, or that I should take the hat off. Couldn't win. Likewise with being a pet-parent. There are libraries of books, television shows, and movies, and everyone has a story about the best (read: only) way to train a dog. Last week, the dog groomer (who took great pains to get Kane as excited as possible before I left the store) told me that Kane's prong collar was too tight and that we should find a new trainer. Who asked you?!

BUT, there are also a couple of very important ways in which he is NOT like a toddler.

1. Toilet training and diapers not required. He very dependably holds it until the appropriate time. No diapers, no accidents (well, just once).

2. He reliably sleeps through the night. Amen to this.

3. Weak language skills. Though a toddler's expressive language is limited, you know they have receptive language, and you can start explaining things like consequences to them: If you try to pull me across the road, I will put you on an even shorter leash until you can behave yourself. Nope. Doesn't work with Kane. He can whine, woof, and bark, and certainly uses body language, but it is very rudimentary communication.

That's where we're at these days. Not an altogether bad place to be.

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