By the time I had my daughter, I'd been raising and training dogs for a long, long time. I thought that it would be easy to transfer the techniques of dog training to child raising. I believe I may have lectured a few parents about this, before I had to try to put it into practice myself. I recently had a childless dog trainer do the same thing to me, and just like those long ago parents, I thought to myself, honey, you so don't know nothin', you don't know the nothin' you don't know.
I remember the moment I realized children aren't dogs. It was pretty early on, because my daughter was in a backpack carrier at the time, being toted by my husband. We were in some public building with a revolving fan, and I said, "look up, look at the fan," and pointed. And she looked up and smiled.
Any dog trainer knows what happens when you point in a direction and say "look!" The dog looks, all right. They look at your FINGER. That's because a pointing finger is an abstract idea: draw an imaginary line from the end of the finger out into space, and you'll discover the object I would like you to notice. Of course, a stockdog easily learns "look back", but that's quite different. That just is a sound which means "more stock somewhere! Leave this bunch with me and go find 'em!" It isn't abstract at all.
Not only are children not dogs, dogs, despite certain superficial behavioral similarities, such as enjoying making a big mess, acting goofy, occasionally biting people when they get mad, and being fun to cuddle, aren't children. They are actually grown-ups. Grown-up DOGS.
That children and dogs are separate species would be unwelcome news to a lot of dog owners. They love their dogs as if they were perpetual children, children who are not capable of taking your car out without permission and totalling it, or inviting your ex to their wedding. I am kinda like that myself, which might be the reason my daughter refers to our dogs as her younger brothers and sister.
However, dogs are much happier when they are understood to be dogs. For example, dogs thrive best under a dictatorship, in which the dictator (you) controls all the resources including such amenities as free time, and demands absolute obedience. If you think of dogs as children, modern children raised in an atmosphere of mutual respect, that's hard to swallow. But it's a fact.
Dogs understand friendship as well as any human and better than most. But our friendship with them is not one of equals. Nothing has made this clearer to me than observing how much happier Ty is when I insist upon his instant obedience. Immediately he becomes focused and relaxed. He knows he is doing right, and that he is in his right place. He is happy there.
Being nice to dogs — sitting on the floor because they don't want to give up the couch, feeding them treats 'just because', letting them pull you around on a leash because they enjoy it — doesn't make them want to be nice back. Partly that's because being-nice behavior is based upon the idea of reciprocity. I'm nice to you, and I expect that you will then be nice to me back, in the future. But the future is an abstract idea that dogs do not grasp. Remember, dogs don't do abstract ideas.
In dog language, you are merely saying that you are a subordinate, and subordinate dogs don't make decisions, are pushed around, by force if necessary, and chew on the bones after the important dogs eat their fill. Dogs who believe human beings are subordinate to them range from being royal pests to public menaces, depending upon their size and energy. They are not happy dogs.
The crude and brutal techniques of 'alpha wolf dominance' aren't necessary to creating a benevolent dictatorship for your dog. Just eat first, kick your dog off the couch, and make him walk behind or beside you instead of in front. I found nothing was as effective in convincing Ty, a dominant leader type dog, that he wasn't, in fact, the boss in my house, than simply insisting that I go first, at all times, and when I say lie down, I mean hit the dirt, bud. Nothing abstract about that.