How adopting a dog has prepared me for the first day of school

For a few months, my wife Kim and I have been discussing adopting a dog.  After a lot of careful thought and reflection we decided to adopt Molly a 3 year old puggle.  Between the time we decided to adopt Molly and when we brought her home, I did a lot of reading about how to welcome a new dog into our home.  While reading information from the web and talking to employees at the Open Door Animal Sanctuary I realized that bringing Molly home for the first time wouldn't be all that different from starting the school year with a new group of students.

Here are five ways that adopting Molly has helped me prepare for the upcoming school year...and vice versa:

1.  Each day will not go as planned. 

After we got home from the animal shelter, we decided to take Molly for a walk.  We tried to put her new harness on her, but no matter how hard we tried, Molly wouldn't put on her harness.  After about 20 minutes of trying to put on her harness and Molly running away, we decided to let her walk with just her collar and leash, which turned out just fine even though it wasn't in the original plan.

2.  Establishing rapport is vital.

Before we brought Molly home, my wife and I went to visit her twice at the animal shelter.  Each time we saw her, Molly was a little more excited to spend time with us.  By the second day she was home, Molly felt like part of the family.  We had to make sure to show her plenty of love and make sure that she knows that we genuinely care about her interests:  going for walks, playing fetch with squeaking toys, and of course, giving treats. 

3.  Setting clear boundaries is priority number 1.

Just like with students, everyone has an opinion on how to take care of Molly.  Some people have told us to shower her with kisses, while others suggested being strict disciplinarians.  We decided to start out by doing just what we each do with our students at the beginning of the year:  set boundaries.  By setting clear boundaries for Molly, her adjustment to living with us has been smooth.  While she has tested her boundaries, by clearly communicating our expectations to her Molly has started to realize what she can and can't do with us. 

4.  Using learning tools ( dog toys) helps to increase engagement.

 Just like my students enjoy activities that incorporate learning tools as basic as individual wipe-off boards or modern tools like smart phones, Molly enjoys playing with her toys while she learns about what is okay and not okay to chew on.  The first day we had Molly at home she spent most of the day sniffing around the house, figuring out where she was and if she was safe.  Then I got out her squeaky toy and she was instantly engaged.  Not only did Molly begin to play with her toy but also we bonded during the experience. 

5.  Enthusiasm is contagious!

 As educators we know that if we aren't excited about the content we plan to deliver, there is no chance that our students will be excited about it either.  I was reminded of this fact shortly after Molly got home.  While trying to train her, enthusiastic praise has gone a long way to help her figure out when she does a good job or has done something bad.  When it comes to playing with her toys, my enthusiasm about the game or toy seems to help Molly decide if that is a toy she wants to play with. 

I was surprised at just how many similarities there have been between adopting Molly and starting a new school year.  Just like when a new school year begins, there was a little apprehension on both my part and Molly's part because neither of us knew quite how to react to the other at first.  

Since Molly has come home, I not only got a new family member but also a new found excitement for the school year. 

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