For the vast majority of dog owners, their canine companion is an integral part of their family, and dogs are often regarded as another one of the kids, or sometimes, they take the place of human children entirely among people who prefer their babies to be of the furry four legged kind! Holding your dog in high regard and giving them the same attention, thought and consideration as a child has a lot to recommend it, although there are also some drawbacks to taking this approach to dog ownership, and a few potential pitfalls to this way of thinking as well.
If you love your dog and also respect them and wish to care for them in the way that is best for your dog and not just yourself, it is important to step back now and then and take an objective look at the way that you think of and treat your dog. It is vital to ensure that, if you love and value your dog in the same way as you would a child, that you do what is best for them, and this means by not killing them with kindness or spoiling them. Anthropomorphising your dog (assigning human traits and emotions to an animal rather than viewing and dealing with them from the mindset of a dog’s understanding) is easy to do, but is actually doing your dog a disservice in the long term.
Small dogs such as lap dogs and so-called “handbag dogs” are some of the dogs that are most commonly viewed and treated in a similar way to human babies, but there are plenty of large and giant dog breeds whose human parents think of them as their favourite child as well!
Read on to find out more about some of the common errors in the training and management of dogs that are regarded as children, plus some more information on when and how regarding your dog in the same way as a child is actually a positive thing.
Training is important for all dogs, even if your dog will have the run of the house, sleep in your bed, and go everywhere with you. It is important not to neglect your dog’s training and ongoing management, as a dog that is not given firm boundaries will soon take on the role of leader in your pack. A dog that is not given firm boundaries and treated consistently will also actually be rather insecure, as they will not have a firm and easily understood structure to their day to give them a good grounding in the nature of their lives.
You may enjoy feeding your dog treats, giving them scraps, or even sharing your meals and giving your dog human food as the main part of their diet as you would with a child. This is one of the biggest pitfalls to avoid in terms of how you treat your dog, and something that can lead to a wide range of problems including obesity, poor nutrition, potential poisoning from eating unsuitable foods, and behavioural issues. Feeding your dog human food is not a good way of showing them your love!
Ensure that your dog is fed a complete dog-specific food that is appropriate for their age, breed and activity levels.
Talking to your dog and carrying on one-sided conversations with your canine companion is absolutely fine, and many of us do this without thinking! Dogs are very good listeners even if they don’t say much, and hearing your voice and a stream of conversation is often comforting for dogs and makes them feel included and happy.
However, don’t forget that your dog cannot understand your words! They may well be able to pick up on the emotion behind them due to the tone of your voice, mood and body language, but that is as far as it will go. If you talk to your dog a lot, remember that you may have to use a different tone of voice or call their name in order to get their attention or issue any training commands. The things that you say to your dog directly may be tuned out as white noise among the stream of the rest of your words unless you find some way of getting their attention and indicating to them that you are now addressing them when issuing a command.
Taking your dog everywhere with you, letting them sleep in your bed and not getting them used to spending time alone is one of the most common ways in which people overlook normal dog behaviours and instead treat their dog like a child. Failing to give your dog enough alone time, not crate training them and raising them so that they are unused to being left can cause a whole range of problems on the inevitable occasions when you will have to leave your dog, and can lead to serious separation anxiety and unhappiness for your dog in the long term.
Thinking of your dog as a child can make it easy to slip into a routine where your dog isn’t taken for regular set walks, and is instead simply taken out with you when you go out and not walked when you do not. It is important to ensure that your dog is walked regularly, that he gets enough exercise, and that smaller dogs that can be picked up and carried are not simply carried everywhere instead of walking by themselves!
Imagine if you moved home, changed jobs, had a change in your relationship status or otherwise underwent a large upheaval in your life. If you had actual human children, you would ensure that any changes you made to your lifestyle were made with the best interests of your children in mind, and you would ensure that nothing that you did would have an adverse affect on them or meant that you were no longer able to care for them- right? Of course! You wouldn’t put your children up for adoption or neglect their care in favour of something new happening in your life, and when you first make the decision to get a dog, you should ensure that you are prepared to extend the same courtesy to your pet.
A dog is for life, and you should ensure that you can take care of them for the entire duration of their lives, holding their comfort, happiness and wellbeing in the same high regard that you would that of your children.
This is the best way in which you can treat your dog like a child!