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Adam England

This is why it can be helpful to imagine that your dog is a toddler (yes, really!)

Dog and toddler outside on autumn day.

Living with a dog can sometimes feel like you’re raising a child, but one who doesn’t really grow up. After all, our pups depend on us for an awful lot. We provide them with food, water, and shelter, and they look to us for attention and affection. 

Sometimes, it’s easy to over-complicate things when it comes to dogs, perhaps overthinking training, when it helps to keep things simple – though some of the best dog treats always go down well! This is why Carolyn Martell, an expert trainer and the founder of Good Dog Training, recommends reframing things as though your dog is a toddler in a new Instagram post – and we think she’s onto something. 

“If a new parent said their two-year-old kept getting the markers off the coffee table and scribbling on the walls, what would you suggest?” asks Martell. “That they keep the markers where the kid can’t reach them? That’s so easy, but when we talk about puppies who get into things, it can feel much more complicated than it really is.”

Martell brings up the example of a puppy chewing your shoes, and asks what you’d do if you had a toddler, rather than a dog, who was getting into your things. She continues, “You’d keep your stuff that you don’t want ruined out of their reach. It’s that simple. Put it away.”

Likewise, if your dog keeps barking, think about what you’d do if your toddler kept yelling. You wouldn’t be able to stop it completely, because it’s normal behavior. However, you can teach them when they can be loud and when they need to be quieter. It doesn’t change overnight, but through patience and their own development, they can learn. Here are 32 quick and easy tricks to teach your dog that can help as they grow up. 

Compare a dog jumping up at you to get your attention to a toddler grabbing you to get your attention. You might tell the toddler to ask nicely, and to accept to word ‘no’ sometimes. Compare a dog running off to a toddler running off – you’d hold their hand, or use a harness. 

“Good parenting has lots of similarities to good dog training,” Martell summarizes. “It’s understanding that perfect doesn’t exist and that we need to manage things well to keep them safe and out of trouble.”

Perhaps you’ve got a dog and a toddler at the same time, something that while rewarding could also be a lot of work at times. If so, you might find this article helpful: I bought a puppy while raising a toddler - here’s six useful tips I've picked up

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