Children Are Dogs

Let me clarify: children are like dogs.

My daughter appeared one day with a white Siberian husky that proceeded to upend our lives.  

He was in the third day of life with us when he made a dash for freedom, running off and getting hit by a car.

After a $2,000 donation to our new best friend, the vet, he limped back to us, forever to be in our hearts.

Shortly after, my daughter migrated to DC, leaving behind for us her gift.

So, each day, I take our gift to the dog park.

If you wish to understand parenting, you really need to observe the behavior of dog owners at the park.

Free Range

As an experienced parent,  I am blasé about what our dog Blitzen (yes, Blitzen!) is doing within the enclosed area.  I am a Free Range parent whose only concern is to ensure I watch him for his regular bowel movement so that, as a good citizen, I may clean up after him.

Otherwise, he is on his own to create, build, destroy, he wishes until it is time for bed.  He will eat when he is hungry, and sleep in the same manner.

There are those that wish I would be a little more hands-on with my dog- perhaps teach him a few manners, watch him a little more closely, and discourage the attention he pays to Fifi, a French poodle.

However, I believe that Blitzen needs to learn through experiences, and who am I to curtail this in any way?


I love to sit at a bench and watch those new to doghood.  These Nurturing humans are very positive with their dogs.  They stay close as they work to build an emotional bond with their four-legged child, demonstrating that they can be trusted.  They understand that success takes time to build, and they show the patience needed. Sometimes, they get carried away and will dress their pooches in ridiculous booties, etc., but this is a harmless characteristic.


Across the park, stands an Unconditional parent. This type of person believes that it is wrong to insist that  that his doggy needs to work for his affection.  No running to catch the ball for his pooch just so that he can get his ear rubbed.   Instead, this owner will love his doggy no matter what. Sometimes, this makes for difficulties when the owner refuses to believe that his dog could ever bully other dogs, or act in any negative manner.


authoritySlurping the water in the common fountain bowl is a large Boxer dog,  His human has clear expectations of him, and the behaviors and performance she expects.  As an Authoritative parent, she has expectations she demands are followed- Rufus will fetch on command, and he can expect a reward in return; failure to do so, will lead to a temporary withdrawal of affection.  This human is a graduate of the Love and Logic program.  Used consistently, this is a very effective approach to raising a dog.


The Slow-go owners tend to act somewhat more aloof at the park, spending more time on the edges and not fully integrated with the adults.  They are not interested in sharing information on articles from Google about this dog issue or that, but seek to limit any negative impact the other dogs and their owners might have on their idyllic set-up. Any dust-up involving another dog with theirs, and they will literally pick up their ball and walk. Often, they are actually too good to even attend the park, dropping in like divas to make an appearance, but disappearing after five minutes.


You can tell the Authoritarian dog owner by his bearing.  He is a proud owner used to having his way, and his dog is not about to change this by disobeying and, therefore, disrespecting him. His dog is part of the social packaging and marketing of his brand. He seeks psychological control over his inferior creature, and he is cold and unemotional towards him.  Having a dog is important, but it is not core to the family, and it is OK for him to sleep outside.

Indulgent and Permissive

If you watch the very loud and unruly dog carefully for long enough, you will note that its owners are very Indulgent and Permissive-the rules appear to apply to other dogs and their owners, not to them and theirs. These are warm and affectionate owners, and they love their doggy very much, but they are blind to her behaviors and faults, and rather than set expectations for their pooch, these owners believe that they can bribe and shame him in what amounts to a transactional relationship between them

If you look quickly, you will see the gate to the park quickly open, a little terrier run inside, and the gate slam just as quickly as his owner departs. Terry the terrier is an adorable three-year-old who immediately seeks out the humans and latches himself to them- he loves company and affection.  Terry is regularly left alone for a long period-his owner is disengaged, with little involvement with either his dog or other owners.  The owner is low in nurturing, and his care for his charge is marginal- it is not always clear that Terry gets all the food, brushing, etc. that he needs and deserves.


The Toxic owner is the most difficult, and other owners in the park tend to drift away from her. First, there is the Helicopter owner-the name is self-explanatory- that hovers over her pooch, stifling his ability to interact with others and to play as he wishes.  Everything that her pooch does is planned, with no spontaneity permitted. This owner controls her dog, and she tries to control and manipulate other dogs and their owners, too, to ensure hers is always best-in-show. Why? It is all to do with the owner’s view of the world, and a fear that it will do her wrong if she is not always on guard for those that would hurt her dog, and by extension, herself.   She raises her dog based on fear.

The Narcissistic owner does not even acknowledge the needs of other dogs as only his dog’s needs matter. This dog must always live up to the extreme expectations of the owner, and she must always be the best, for anything less would be a reflection on the owner, and any such flaw is not possible. Thus, this dog will spend time in doggy training classes and shows to ensure it is better than others, and its pedigree must be protected at all times, even though there is a price to pay.  This owner values her vanity more than anything else.

Our dog community is wonderful. Generally, dogs and owners get along well.  There are those owners who make life more difficult for everyone.

At Confident Parenting, we work with all these parents.  We do not judge, but seek to help parents understand the positive and negative impact of the manner in which they are raising their child, and if we have helped many parents over the years.  Give us a call.