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Growth Spurts: On Retraining

We recently received some new-to-us living room furniture from my in-laws. It is great furniture—an oversized couch and chair that can hold a lot of people and are perfect for napping. Unfortunately, my dogs think so, too.

Once upon a time…when we first got our dog, Uncle Rico, nearly ten years ago, we didn’t allow him to get on the furniture. Every once in a while, we caught him in the act of lounging on the couch, and he only needed a look from us to know he’d better get down. At which point, he would walk through the room with his head lowered, not daring to make eye contact with us, his masters.

Fast forward seven years to when we added our second dog, Toby, to the family. Toby is smaller than Rico and doesn’t shed. He’s also a bit mischievous, but he’s cute about it. So as it sometimes happens with the second child/dog, we (okay, I) got a little more lax with the rules about no dogs on the couches. And once Toby was given the freedom, you’d better believe Uncle Rico assumed the liberty for himself as well. At that point, if I walked through the living room and saw Rico on the couch, he didn’t lower his head; he met my eyes with his in confidence and proceeded to follow me with those sweet brown eyes, while the rest of his body didn’t budge an inch. Yes, I think he was daring me to say something about it. He knew that the little guy got to do it, so this was only fair. I agreed with him.

So for three years now, both Toby and Uncle Rico have been allowed to snuggle on the couches. That is, until we got the new-to-us stuff. In addition to the new stuff being nicer than our old stuff, it is also lighter in color, therefore showing dirt and such more easily.

So we’re trying to REtrain the dogs, and this is complicated.

Since we are the ones suddenly changing the rules, we can’t expect instant success and understanding from our pooches. And since they can’t talk, we can’t exactly try reasoning with them. So we must redirect them… often. Quite often. We are wishing now that we had never allowed them on the couches in the first place, because it is so hard to retrain! So much harder than any initial training that we’ve done with the dogs in other areas. They just don’t understand why something they’ve been doing happily for so long is now a no-no.


Some of you see where I’m going with this. The difficulty of retraining our kids in various areas can also lead to much frustration and exasperation. Often, I think we’re guilty of letting our youngest kiddos get away with some things because it’s “cute” when they’re little and don’t know better. But consider how difficult it will be to retrain them later. They’ve been used to you laughing and smiling at something they said or did, but now that they’re older, it’s not considered to be “cute,” and you don’t want them to do it anymore. That’sa hard concept for them! I know they aren’t as difficult to reason with as dogs are, but it’s still a lot to ask of them to suddenly change their behavior that has been entertaining to you up until this point.

This is just something for us parents to keep in mind. Training our children is hard enough work as it is without having to do a lot of retraining. Now if you’ll excuse me… Toby and Uncle Rico are on the couch again.


Carrie Bevell Partridge is still working on retraining her kids to put their dishes in the dishwasher, to make their beds in the morning, to close the pantry door, etc., etc., etc.


About The Author

Carrie Partridge

Carrie Bevell Partridge grew up in Memphis, TN with her parents and four siblings. She attended Mississippi College, where she met her husband Kevin. They have been married for 20 years and have five children. They live in Ridgeland, MS. Carrie has written the “Growth Spurts” column and managed social media for Parents & Kids Magazine since 2011. You can read more of her work at and

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