You open Instagram or TikTok and you see it. Scroll through Facebook and see it. Go anywhere; a park, a clothing store, or the grocery store and you’ll see the obsession: dogs. Owning a dog (and making that dog a part of your everyday/everywhere life) has become a kind of lifestyle trend.
Sure, we could blame the Covid-19 pandemic for making the problem worse. I mean 23 million Americans adopted a pet during the pandemic — that’s about 1 in every 5 households.
But let’s be honest, people have been obsessed with animals for eons. The ancient Egyptians worshiped cats, the modern millennials drool over dogs.
If you have a dog, that’s wonderful. Take it outside, go for walks together, play fetch, or cuddle up on the couch. But for the love, do not run around proclaiming you’re a “fur mama” or “fur daddy.” Because here’s the truth: your puppy is not a child. Your dog is not a human.
In case you skipped that last line above, let me clarify: if you own a pet, it does not make you a parent. If that offends you, keep reading.
Owning a dog is not like parenting a child.
I know many friends and family members who have dogs. They like to share stories about what their dog did the other day; how they jumped over a fire hydrant or barked at the mail carrier — that’s normal. You can talk about your dog.
But it is insulting to hear people equate the relationship between a dog and their owner to that of a parent and child. Or when someone considers the responsibility of owning and caring for a dog equal to that of a parent raising and loving their child.
Pets are great, but they are not equal to humans in value.
It might seem crazy that this has to be said but, when we equate dogs or other pets with humans, it diminishes the value of humans (especially when you compare them to kids).
Our society promotes the idea of owning dogs but laughs at parenting children. It’s more acceptable to talk about your dog’s ability to chase a ball than your child’s ability to walk and talk. Kids are seen as an inconvenience or a nuisance, but puppies are cute and worth it.
Maybe it’s just a millennial problem. Afterall, 80% of millennials own at least one dog. This makes millennials the biggest dog-owning generation yet. And, we’re waiting longer to have kids — which is fine.
But let’s not be confused: our pets can’t replace people. Let dogs be dogs and humans be humans.
Animals are wonderful canine (or feline) companions, but they aren’t your child. Let them be your pet, instead of trying to put them in the same place as a human.
There is a word for this phenomenon: Anthropomorphizing
When someone compares their animal to a human it is called anthropomorphizing. (Yes, that’s a real word.) To anthropomorphize is to place human characteristics, traits, qualities, or emotions onto anything non-human.
Your boxer puppy is not as much work to care for as my 10-month-old baby. Saying goodbye to your dog as your drop them off at the kennel (difficult as that may be) is not the same as dropping my child off at daycare or school.
Potty training a puppy is not the same as potty training a toddler. (Also, bonus: kids eventually go to the bathroom by themselves. Dog owners have to pick up their animal’s crap forever.)
How we treat our kids vs. how we treat dogs matters
There are obvious biological and physiological differences between dogs and humans, but there are also differences in how we treat dogs vs. how we treat humans.
A dog is expected to obey its owner. It’s trained to accommodate its owners’ lifestyle and always please its owner. A child is not expected to always and forever obey his/her parents’ every command. (Well, at least not this parent.)
Most parents would agree they are raising their child to be respectful, kind, and to stand on their own. Kids are raised to forge their own path, make their own decisions, and become an adult.
While a puppy is trained to live with their owner forever, a child is raised to one day be on their own.
So where do we draw the line?
As a parent, you have to let some things roll off your back, because someone is going to say something about you, your child, or how you parent and it will upset you.
Maybe it doesn’t bother you when someone compares your child to a puppy or a dog — that’s fine. It doesn’t always bother me when someone thinks my daughter is a boy, just because she’s playing in the dirt, or *gasp* not wearing a pink or purple t-shirt. I let it roll off my back.
But this is not one of those things.
A child is not a dog. And if you try to compare your animal to my tiny child, I will correct you. It’s not cute or funny, it’s absurd.