We are thinking about getting a puppy. I know, there's not enough chaos or poop in our house, so we're looking for some more. We went to a puppy training class the other day, to pick up some tips from the pros. We chatted with one woman for quite a while who gave us the following basic facts about training a puppy. While you read this, substitute the word "child" for "dog" in your mind, and see if this doesn't sound more like something you would find in a parenting book: 1) Always give the dog clear expectations, and never deviate from those expectations. Your response about those expectations needs to be consistent. 2) Never repeat a command to a dog. You need to expect that they carry out your command immediately. 3)Using treats to bribe your dog to do what you want is ok in the beginning, but the dog needs to learn to obey you out of respect and love, not because they expect a reward for doing so every time. 4)Talk to your dog while you are training him. The dog will begin to understand that not everything that comes out of your mouth involves discipline or commands, and that will build a better relationship with your dog. The dogs also love approval and praise. 5)The dog needs to understand that there is somebody in charge. If there is no apparant authority figure, the dog will become agitated, and he will try to assume that role, the role of Alpha Male. It will be very difficult once the dog assumes that role to convince him otherwise that you are charge. You have a short window to establish the chain of authority, and you have to constantly reinforce it. During this whole spiel, Jacob was happily playing with this woman's puppy, who nestled comfortably in my son's lap and exuberantly licked his face. The woman smiled and said, "It's not that different from raising kids, really." Yeah, DH and I had definitely picked up on that already. I started thinking, "Oh, great. My puppy handling skills are going to be judged according to the behavior of my 3 year old!" Dh pointed out a woman who was particularly vocal about technique to the other puppy handlers. "Oh," our new friend said. "That's Roberta." DH kind of snorted and said, "It looks like she thinks she's the Alpha Male!" The woman looked at us and said, "She doesn't think she is. She KNOWS she is. All the dogs know it, too. She can get any dog to behave." She paused for a minute, and then said, "Come to think of it, her children are remarkably well behaved, too." So there you have it, folks. If you want to judge a person's mothering skills, don't judge her by the behavior of her children. Judge her by the behavior of her dog. And if you feel your mothering skills are lacking, you don't need a family counselor, or a self-help book. Just show up to your neighborhood puppy training class, seek out the Alpha Male, and ask her to teach you everything she knows.