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Emily Southwood Headshot

Are We Overbearing Puppy Parents?

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It's often said that parents today are an overbearing lot. The reason is frequently attributed to the abundance of readily available information. From the endless dos and don'ts of pregnancy blogs, to Ivy League preparation classes (for children in elementary school), there is no shortage of resources for the zealous parent. My husband and I have always vowed to be mellow when we have kids. "Our offspring will play with wooden spoons; they'll be toted in slings not Bugaboos!" we've said. We were committed to our humble intentions. That is, until we brought our puppy home.

Popular wisdom alleges that acquiring a puppy can prepare you for having a baby. I always thought that was hogwash, until puppy rearing offered me a preview of how psycho a mom I could unwittingly become. Neither my husband nor I had pets growing up, which meant, like any first-time parents, we had questions. Lots of them. Where should puppy sleep? Should we leave his food out or provide it in doses? Why does he exhibit a penchant for eating his poo?

Where did we go for answers? Did we call my husband's aunt who lives on a farm and has raised dogs, sheep, and donkeys for 30 years? No, we're 21st-century parents; we turned to the Internet. There we found many answers -- tips good, bad, and nothing if not conflicting. Just as one blog would tell us to never scold our puppy for going potty inside, another would suggest sternly saying, "No," and rubbing their nose in it. There seemed to be an endless back and forth about using "pee pads." And one girl in a chat forum even suggested our puppy might enjoy Little Caesar's pizza.

The challenge, however, wasn't so much which advice to follow -- it was clear enough to us that a slice of all dressed is no meal for a pup. A real obstacle, however, was how to curb the desire to get it all exactly right. I was primed to purchase a copy of Cesar Millan's How to Raise the Perfect Dog when I stopped myself.

Some good advice is definitely a leg up. But when does information overload, coupled with the drive for excellence, become a wee bit too much pressure? When do ski lessons or hockey practice turn into misplaced Olympic dreams? In our case, the quest for a perfectly potty-trained pup in two weeks flat ended predictably in disappointment.

We've also now experienced first-hand how focusing solely on our pup's development can make one, well, boring. Everybody knows the couple that can speak of nothing but their brilliant children; you probably avoided them at a party last week. Well, that was the same response my husband and I elicited going on ad nauseam about our Westiepoo the other night. I don't have to look at my cache history last month to know it was all puppy searches, zero politics; all training tips, not a stitch of op-ed or news. No wonder I have nothing better to talk about over cocktails.

A certain amount of obsession with new life is inevitable, however I suppose my biggest takeaway from this experience is my awareness of the rate at which care can turn into consumption. Does puppy need booties and a raincoat for Vancouver weather? No, probably not. At least not any more than my hypothetical one-year-old will ever need a Burberry trench. Nonetheless, let's just say we may have shamefully purchased a certain puppy a particularly irresistible cable knit cardigan.

Alas, if there's anything I do know about life by now, it's to never, ever, say never.