I often don’t take my dogs with me on outings. I used to bring them with me everywhere. As odd as it may seem, when my kids were small children, it was actually easier management then it is now. When my kids were small like 7 and 4, they had better listening skills. They still listen but only when they choose to. As walking babies who could take, go to the potty by themselves, and do a lot of things they couldn’t do as infants and toddlers, the world was a very large place. Having two unruly pups didn’t make it any easier.
I think having dogs who needed some training helped a lot with the kids’ independence. They started thinking about what was expected of them as co-caregivers of pets. Iza and Tango each had their own personalities and needed special care that pertained particularly to themselves. For instance, Iza could be leash aggressive and Tango could be a bit of a flight risk.
The kids, even at their young age, were part of the family team. They were just as engaged as my husband and I at bringing in line these two mutts and become a cohesive family. We had Iza first and she was a challenge. She grew out of her puppy biting stage late. She loved to play tug-of-war with anything with the kids. Everything was a game to her. We took her to some training classes so she could be more socialized and we could get some better tools with handling a pup like that. Out of her litter, she was the last to get adopted from an adoption event at Pet Smart. That should have been a red flag in itself. People must have observed her behavior with her siblings and passed on her, even though she was probably the most adorable.
Over time, Iza came to understand her place in our family. She even became a host for three other foster dogs. This all took patience and commitment. There were many things Iza grasped faster than most other dogs. Our third foster dog ended up being a forever dog. His name was Tango. If we hadn’t lived in a two-dog policy condo, we probably would have aimed to adopt all three fosters, including Curtis and Kahlo. My heart breaks when I think about Curtis and Kahlo. Unfortunately, that is the nature of fostering. We sacrifice our time and heart so that dogs in need can find a home. We foster so that more dogs have that chance. We gave up fostering when we received Tango. Our spirits needed a break from the whole process of filtering dogs out of our lives.
Tango was the best-tempered dog. Like many dogs who encounter a new situation, he was did the Beagle bounce anytime someone opened the door. One time, my father-in-law stopped for an item my husband requested to borrow and Tango was out the door before we knew what was happening. That dog gave us a three-hour chase. He finally ended up circling back into a part of the neighborhood we had familiarized him with previously, the complex’s dog park.
I don’t know what happened exactly. Now, whenever he has gone somewhere he isn’t allowed, he usually comes to find us and hang out with his humans. When we first moved to the rural crescent, our new property contained a fenced backyard. Beyond the fence, the land backed into the woods. My husband locked the dogs in the fence the first week after move-in. We wanted to explore the woods. Low and behold we noticed that we had company.
Iza, being ultra good at “stay” and knowing what we expect of her, most of the time, whined anxiously. Our buddy Tango was sniffing along the path just a few feet from us. He had decided he was just going to caravan through the woods right along with us. A lot of times, he will try to find us now. The change from flight risk to totally dependable was a result of being part of our family for a length of time. We always showed him that we would care for him and he was loved. I think that helped a lot.
The kids are at an age where they are on the cusp of wanting utter independence, but they’re not old enough completely. We still give them their load of responsibilities, but they are rebelling a bit and their behaviors are surprisingly more unpredictable than when they were little. They are facing a lot more on their own and trying to gain an identity. The preteen/late grade school time is a serious transition.
At the first signs of my daughter and son’s pushback, I responded strictly. I am trying to get them to remain open to my views in a less adverse way. Positive reinforcement even at this difficult child-rearing time is still the best way. It is more challenging because we almost see the children as equals. They are equals but as grown-ups, it’s very important to understand kids who are still in their childhood need addressing that is still appropriate. It is never appropriate to yell at grade school aged kids or middle schoolers as if they are adults. They are mimicking adults without the know how.
Now having said all that, my kids are still great. It is just that their change in attitude has taken me quite by surprise. I’m at a loss, most times. They were a certain way for a very long time. It’s important to accept their transition into teens as a moment in family history that is also a transition for me as a parent and my role in their lives.
Lately, I’ve been taking walks with the kids and the dogs more frequently again. During the beginning transitional changes of their childhood, we skipped family walks. This was to make things more convenient for all. However, I noticed a sense of calm and routine returning to life with the reinstatement of family walks in the evening. I feel so confident, that I will be taking the dogs with us on most outings from here on out again.