I was never one of those parents who pushed their kids. Tiger Mom? More like a flounder mom, with a strictly hands off approach. I provided all the resources my girls needed to pursue their various interests, then stayed in the kitchen and ignored them when they didn't practice the piano/guitar/lesson du jour.
With my dog, I was the same way. I taught her the basics, talked to her a lot, and relied on her own judgement to learn the rest. Since she had pretty good judgment, she stayed out of trouble most of the time—although I can't say she stayed out of mud puddles. That was her choice, though, and while I hated the dirt, I loved that she loved it.
Sparky is proving to be a bit different. He has horrible judgment: he barks at dogs, strangers, noises, pheasants, and cows. He'd likely chase sheep if given the chance, and I'm pretty sure he wants a piece of the cats next door.
So my non-interventionist parenting skills aren't working with him. He needs guidance, i.e. training, and lots of it. From day one I've tried to shape his behavior, and teach him some coping skills like "leave it" and "stay" and "quiet". I.e., the Tiger Mom equivalent of dog training, which goes against my Flounder Mom nature.
Fortunately, he's a brilliant dog. He learns very quickly, but there's a difference between teaching him cute tricks and teaching him good behavior. He's a master of cute tricks. In fact, he's learned that when he sits on his haunches next to my desk, I'll stop work and reward his "cute trick". He does this without prompting—cleverly, he's figured out how easy I am to train, too.
I taught him to "touch" my hand, and other objects, like Blue Bone and Rope Toy. He also can "get" toys, distinguishing between toys with different names or generic toys (i.e., toys we haven't bothered to name). Last night, I made sure he knew the difference between "touch" and "get" (i.e., pick up and bring to me) a specific toy—a skill that will need reinforcing, but was pretty easy to teach him.
Again, fortunately, he's highly motivated by food. As soon as he figures out what I want him to do, he does it, eagerly and happily, knowing he's getting a nice nibble of something, anything—it doesn't have to be a particularly high value treat for him to "twirl" or "rollover". Unlike Tiger Mom, I don't even have to threaten to take away his Barbie house.
He's even learned how to find treats hidden in his dog puzzle, which I won in a Facebook giveaway from D for Dogs. It keeps him occupied, especially these winter days when weather forces us indoors. (It's better than listening to him practice the piano for hours on end.)
Cute tricks and puzzle solving may be worth their weight in dog treats, but when you come upon a pasture full of lambs, having your dog perform a perfect twirl won't cut it. And while Sparky's recall is great—in the back garden—I know better than to let him run off lead anywhere there are more than a few birds as distraction.
If I were a Tiger Mom, I'm sure Sparky could learn as much as Chaser, the wonder dog who knows over 1000 objects as well as verbs. That would be easy, if time consuming. In the end, I'd have a dog who could pick up children's toys, help with the laundry, and retrieve the remote control. Handy, but I want a dog who can hike along trails without launching an attack on a passing poodle.
I don't know how to teach a dog good judgment. Maybe it just takes time, and dog years. We've been working with a behaviorist, but I've learned when it comes to behavior training, I'm the one who needs to learn the most. It's not as easy as driving your kids to piano lessons, or teaching your dog to "twirl" while you hold a treat in front of his nose.
Tiger Mom I'm not, but then, my girls turned out okay. I expect Sparky will too. Although I don't know if he'll ever be welcome at Carnegie Hall—unless they need a really good twirler.