Friday, November 4, 2011

Puppy lessons, part 5: choke collar

“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” –Proverbs 29:17

Maisy, our 10 month old lab, is doing well. She continues to grow and mature. But the growing and maturing isn't happening by accident. As most dog owners can testify, it happens through blood, sweat and tears. Parenting can be tough too. Why? Because the master (parent) is attempting to impose his will on the puppy (child). That is usually a difficult and choppy process. But that process, if carried out by loving masters (parents) and if allowed to have its effect, usually produces stable and secure dogs (kids).

Months ago, we discovered what we already knew about Labrador Retrievers, Maisy's breed. We were reminded that Labs are strong. We took her on walks with her regular collar and leash and she would pull so quickly and aggressively that the walk became more like a run. As much as we tried to get her to slow down and heel, the puppy and breed in her stayed aggressive.

Kids are strong too. Even as babies, they are so cute and sweet but I am always amazed at the amount of emotional strength that even little kids possess. They have a will and it is strong. The child wants what he wants and is willing to kick and scream to get it!

So, we finally decided to switch collars on Maisy. We went from a regular loose collar to a [insert organ music] CHOKE COLLAR. A choke collar, also known as a slip collar, is so named because if the dog puts force on the leash, the collar around their neck chokes them. The idea is that the dog learns that yielding to the master holding the chain brings relief and a much more pleasant walk for the dog. It sounds horrible and cruel, but it actually produces a more settled and compliant dog. Labs are smart and Maisy quickly figured out that submission brought peace.

Our children usually figure that out too, if we keep the collar on them long enough. I say “usually” because there are no guarantees. Raising dogs and kids is a project of faith. Parents do the best they can and the results are up to the kid. Some dogs (and kids) are just more ornery than others, and all the psychological data can't explain exactly why. But applying the pressure and discipline needed to teach a child submission is the right thing to do. Kids and dogs need structure. And compassionate discipline equals love in the soul of a child.

The choke collar also reduces stress on the person walking the dog because the consequence of the misbehavior falls squarely on the dog, not the walker. If the dog resists, the dog chokes. If the dog submits, the dog has a relaxing walk. Training dogs and parenting are difficult work, but much more enjoyable when responsibility is correctly shared. The most frustrated parents are those that bear unnecessary responsibility for their kid’s resistance.

We need to let our kids choke! Not literally, but when children are pulling against the chain, let them suffer the consequences. As parents, don't own their problem. Yes, love them, but don't project too much of yourself into their struggle. Otherwise, you might remove the choking chain and with that, remove needed discipline in their lives.

We need to remember that as we’re teaching them the strength of submission to us, as parents, we’re more importantly teaching them of the freedom that comes with submission to a loving God.

So take a deep breath, let the collar do its work and enjoy the walk.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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