Parents sneer when people without children talk about dog ownership as if it's a practice run for having children. Dogs are not babies. Otto, my miniature schnauzer, doesn't wear Halloween costumes. He's not my child. I'm not his mommy. And yet, I learned important parenting lessons during my two years with Otto before my first son was born. We made mistakes with Otto that freed us from making those same mistakes with our children. So while Otto is not my first baby (he's a dog!), he was our guinea pig. Much like a second child gets experienced parents with a game plan, my first son got new parents who had already been disabused of misguided notions of behavior management and control.