Do you consider yourself a dog owner, a dog person or a dog parent (pal, servant, toy, companion…)? Perhaps it doesn’t matter much what you label yourself but then these labels tend to indicate an attitude towards your dog.
I was never comfortable with the idea of being a dog owner. (So in our stories there is no reference to being an ‘owner’ or a dog being ‘owned’.) I think the whole dog ‘owner’ thing has historically come from legal and local authority issues, as in who is responsible for the dog’s behavior.
Recently I’ve been noticing more and more people talking about being a dog ‘parent’ or parenting your dog. When I first saw this term I thought, huh? Isn’t that a bit schmaltzy? But immediately I realized that pretty much all good ‘dog owners’ are good ‘dog parents’.
A dog is parented when they are shown how to behave, when responsiblity for their behavior rests with the person the dog lives with and when they are a valued member of the family. Unless they are a working dog they don’t work for a living so need to be supported by someone. So, to me, the parenting idea is appropriate for all kinds of positive outcomes.
Being a dog parent has nothing whatever to do with perceiving a dog to be a child. No. Thinking of yourself as a dog parent does not mean you think of dogs as children. But it does mean you take the time to raise a good canine citizen and a happy, well-adjusted dog who in turn brings you a great deal of joy and much more besides.
In our family we also have Nana Vanda who is human grandmother to many dogs but unrelated to any of us humans. So in this all this thinking about parenting a dog it occurred to me that in the same way that parents read to their children to share an experience of something gentle and connected – not to necessarily ‘educate’ them – as dog parents we can feel completely at ease reading to our dog.
Are you a dog parent or grandparent?
post script 28.07.09:
The other day at the local library a book practically jumped off its shelf and into my arms. It’s wonderfully titled, “Making Animals Happy, How to create the best life for pets and other animals” and it’s written by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson. Obviously, I borrowed it.
I haven’t started it yet but looked what I noticed in my quick skim – I’m quoting directly from the book, page 33:
“Dogs need parents, not pack leaders
What dogs probably need isn’t a substitute pack leader but a substitute parent. I say that because genetically dogs are juvenile wolves and young wolves live with their parents and siblings.”
Really looking forward to reading this book.