Dogs & Kids: Is it Fair to Compare?

Archive, Benson, Conception, Fatherhood, Pregnancy

I was always a little awkward around dogs. With their slobber and farts and fur loss. Always jumping and licking. Always staring at you with those helpless eyes. What did they want from me? I could never tell.

B, on the other hand, always loved them. And always wanted one. So a few years ago, we got one. A little brown Boston Terrier puppy we named Benson. My life hasn’t been the same since.

boston terrier puppy

Now I’m approaching strangers’ dogs in public, posting countless photos of Benson on Instagram, and annoying talking endlessly about him to anyone who’ll listen. I’ve become a full-blown, unapologetic doggy dad.

The transition, however, wasn’t smooth. At all. The first few weeks with Benson were very hard. Sure, we lost sleep. And potty training had its challenges. But the hardest part was the emotional adjustment. Separating the distance and detachment I felt around dogs my entire life. Embracing the idea that another life depended on me. Those first few days Benson felt like a stranger in my home. A stranger I had to feed and clean up after. Who kept me up at night. As much as I hate to admit it, there were moments when I regretted getting him.

What changed then? He started curling up to sleep on my lap. He learned to fetch. Our potty training efforts started paying off. We found a routine. He showed excitement and anticipation. He’d steal a sock so I’d chase him around the house. I started seeing loyalty and purity and goodness in his eyes. It was no one thing in particular but the accumulation of moments that built a bond, an emotional connection and dependence. Suddenly, he had purpose and relevance. Suddenly, I loved him.

brown boston terrier

How could you not?

Everything was much easier after that. Benson was family. I knew how to act around family. I knew patience and tolerance were required of family. And I knew that the rewards of family were unparalleled.

Before I transition into raising children, let’s just get one thing out of the way: I’m not going to compare pet parenting with raising a child. Or pretend they are equal. I think it’s clear that children require more time, more effort, more patience, more endurance, and every other exhaustible human resource.

Rather, I’d simply like to ask an honest question: Does raising a dog in some way prepare you for raising a child? In what ways, if any, are they similar? Are there any applicable lessons to be learned or wisdom to take away?

DSC03800-Edit-2

I ask because I constantly question whether I’m doing enough to prepare for fatherhood. Yes, I’ve painted the nursery and we’ve started amassing baby stuff. But if Benson has taught me anything, the struggle won’t be about buying enough stuff. It’ll be an emotional, internal struggle. Because similar to my past feelings about dogs, I’m not entirely comfortable around kids. There’s a barrier there. I can smile and wave and high-five. But beyond that, my experience with children is nothing to write home about. And to me, that’s scary. I’m a musician. I’m used to practice and rehearsal and more practice.

Of course raising a child isn’t a concert. It’s likely the single most important thing I’ll do in my life, and surely it bares the most responsibility. No one asks to be born. It’s your choice, not theirs. For that, you’re forever liable. And you better do all you can to assure your choice is supported by any and all resources to which you have access. You should feel pressure. You should feel worry. Right?

At the same time, I’m excited. If raising a daughter is at all like raising a puppy, the rewards seem abundant and exclusive. Just as there’s nothing like seeing Benson ecstatic when I come home or when he rests his sleepy head on my leg, I’m sure there’s incalculable joy found solely in things that your children do. Maybe it’s a smile. Or unabashed, surprisingly-insightful proclamations about the world around them.

I look back at my helpless dog days and smile. Knowing what dogs want? I’ve cracked the code on that one: food and attention. I’m guessing kids want similar things, but it’s exponentially more complex and infinitely more difficult to deliver.

Of the few articles I’ve found on kids and dogs, most are written by mothers frustrated or annoyed with people who compare the two. Again, I’m trying my best not to do that. I just wonder if there’s any relation. Because those of us wondering are simply trying to learn. Trying to prepare. Trying to find the best route to traverse in this great unknown that is raising a child.

The goal of this post was to hear from others, so please if you have thoughts, experience, or advice on this subject, leave a comment below.

Title image by Tiffany Walensky.

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18 thoughts on “Dogs & Kids: Is it Fair to Compare?

  1. Nothing at all prepares you for parenthood. There are similarities, many, but its like comparing a fire cracker with the nuclear bomb. I think the most important thing to remember about taking care of children is taking care of your wife/husband first. If you remember to take care of each other, taking care of a kid is much easier. By the way, my favorite similarity (NOT!) between dogs and kids is that they both pee on the carpet at some point : )

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  2. I think there is a relation, to some degree. Growing up we had pets but mostly the care fell on my parents. Nothing prepared me for the care, discipline, and consistency that Biggie required of us when we got him. My husband and I soon realized that we needed to be on the same page and communicate if one or the other wouldn’t be home in time to walk him etc. At the same time, 5 years down the road just when I think I have our boy figured out he goes and does something heinous or hilarious. I’ve noticed some relation with then having our daughter who is now 3. Nothing prepared me for that either and despite being a woman a lot of that motherly stuff never came “naturally” at times I was just as lost, confused, or unprepared as I was when first trying to juggle our boy. One of the biggest things I’ve learned though is to pick my battles and be flexible, because nothing goes as planned once you have a baby.

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  3. I’m all for parenthood. Its the most rewarding thing you do in your lifetime. It is still a mystery to me, the overwhelming love that comes with the birth of a child. It will envelope you in ways that are still a mystery to me.

    You wonder if you are prepared to be a dad. Will you know how to be a parent? Well, of course not! How could you! That comes with the package, you learn on the job, and in spite of worries, frustrations, sleepless nights, and the whole ball of wax, its that love you feel for your child that overides everything else.

    You’ve got what it takes. Your baby will know she is loved. There is not a doubt in my mind that you and B will be wonderful parents. So relax and enjoy.

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  4. I think your experience with your pup will definitely help prepare you for fatherhood. Sounds silly right? But I believe you fell in love with that fur bundle because you were able to show enough patience to figure out what he wants, how to show him you love him and let him love you in return. Your kindness and attention will go a long way in parenting, papa. Keep calm and parent on!

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  5. Before motherhood of children, I was the mother to a cat. Oh and the love I had for that cat! Now a little history, our family were dog lovers, cats not allowed, so when a boyfriend presented a gift of a cat – well I was not certain what to do….I knew about taking care of dogs, but a cat. With very little time, the instincts (and research) kicked in and before I knew it I was madly, deeply in love with my kitten! I was officially a ‘mom’! Fast forward 12 blissful years later and suddenly my precious cat-baby had developed some type of debilitating arthritis. I rushed her to the emergency pet clinic – the news on Christmas Eve sadly enough was heart-wrenching – the words I cannot even repeat – I spent two hours crying before giving in to what was honestly the best fate for her – no more suffering. However the loss caused me both guilt and pain until one day, my-then-fiance on the very next Christmas Eve blessed me with another cat – a ‘mom’ once again! During all those years I honestly could not understand how parents of human children could not agree that my ‘motherhood’ was just like their parenthood – just a different species…right?! Well, wrong…..once I gave birth to my first human child – it was like the skies opened and heaven fell down to earth with harps and angels and light! Now do not get me wrong, I still loved my cat, but suddenly, the difference became clear…..this is not to downplay the love of any pet or anyone calling themselves “mommy, or in your case daddy” to a loving animal, but the difference can only be understood once that blessed day a child enters your life. (Thank you – very much enjoyed reading your blog…I will be back!)

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  6. I love this post. I had a puppy pre child and had to get rid of her because it was just too much going on (the dog not the baby hehe). But I can say the whole idea of having to care for someone was somewhat prepped by my puppy. I cared for her like a child, took her everywhere, dressed her every day, the works! Yes I am one of those people. Needless to say when I had my child I was ready in the sense of being aware that someone else depended and needed me. 8 years later we just got a new puppy and boy oh boy so not prepared. If it isnt the kid into something its the dog, those two totally keep be going and constantly cleaning one thing or another lol

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  7. Ha! this is interesting. I’ve never had my own pet, and it’s not something I’d personally consider doing because of the restrictions and expense. (travel, vet bills etc). On the other hand my two children have not affected our freedom/lifestyle/obligations in this way. One thing I think about kids is that people really want to scare you about how hard it’s going to be. Sure it’s challenging, but my experience is that babies don’t cry when they are close to you and their needs are met. Plus, they are small! You can take them wherever you go, and they are happy with that too. Don’t read too much into the scary stories. They do shake up your life, but in a good way!

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  8. Hey HypeDad!
    First, congrats on the baby! My first was a girl and now we’re expecting a boy in a few weeks. I totally relate to you on how I felt about kids before having one. They’re cool and all but Um, I don’t want to live with them! LOL I mentored and spent time with the kids from church after they went through a screening process of my own and meeting the parentA. I’ve always thought the best kind of kids are the ones you can take back! 🙂 Anyhow, your concern is telling that you will be a great parent. I’m in love with my 15 month old daughter (she’s 1 …. The month thing is so obnoxious to me). My first at age 36. No matter how tired you’ll be you’ll always have energy for your little one. And I do think that having a pet is something like practice as far as the taking care of another piece …. This is why I don’t have a pet. A husband and 2 kids is all I can handle! God bless and take it day by day. You will know what to do for baby. It will come natural as God has put everything we need inside of us! You will do fine.

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  9. Cool post, but from my vantage point, all beings choose their time to enter and exit physical existence. With kids, like dogs, you have to stop and smell the roses constantly, and staying in the moment is really important. Kids will love you and love you and they will bring you so much joy, tears will stream down your face. But you can’t love and be worried about them at the same time. If you choose to love, you are way better off then fearing, because I believe life is good. Dogs are always happy to see you, and if you raise your kids with love, they will always be happy to see you to see you as well.

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  10. dear hypedad – thank you for liking my latest post! I love reading your thoughts as a dad/dad-to-be.

    I have had puppies pre kid. I’ve had kittens post kid. And I’ve had to deal with geriatric cats and dogs between.

    When kids are so much better than dogs: most places welcome babies and kids (even bars and church). Whereas dogs aren’t allowed to most places you’d like to grab a drink or pray. People automatically believe you are noble because you managed to have unprotected sex and succeeded in furthering the human race. (Esp people who are not parents.). Being a pet parent, and deferring to yourself in that way makes you seem loony to anyone who has never fallen in love with a furball.

    When a dog is better than kids: dogs are loyal and don’t talk back. They don’t outlive you, so you can pretty much control them during their entire lifespan they reside under your roof. And well – no one ever claimed that they put on puppy-weight and just never managed to lose it. Or that their dog is causing them gray hairs.

    I wish you a good looking fatherhood filled with wonderment and joy. When people tell you how great the movie was and you get all upset at how overrated it was – being a parent is the one show where it never was as rewarding as you thought it would be. It is just as great as people told you – and even better than words. When you look into the eyes of your own baby – there is a feeling that is beyond compare.

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  11. Dogs are great, kids are much better. And more work, more sleepless nights, and worth it! I was an only child so experience with babies and small kids was near zero for me.
    When our first was born, the nurse shoved a blanketed bundle of screaming baby into my arms and I had no idea what I should do. But the instant connection and love I felt was unexplainable. It is amazing man!
    That was five kids and over two decades ago for me, I still remember that moment in the delivery room like it was yesterday.
    A baby girl will melt your heart! There is nothing I cherish more in life than my family.
    Congrats!

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