It’s time we stop saying our dogs are like our kids, and here’s why.
First, I think it’s relevant to point out that I do not have or want children of my own. I have two beautiful teenage step-daughters that I love very much, and that’s simply enough for me in the kid’s department. I also love my dogs, to the moon and back, but they are not people, and they are certainly not babies. If you’ve ever irritated someone by saying your dogs are your kids, allow me to break down the complexity of emotions that you may have stirred in doing so.
The experiences and expectations are completely different.
For starters, you don’t get a dog and expect it to outlive you. Yet, having children is a primary way for many people to validate their lives on this planet and to leave a legacy that will continue to grow generations after they’ve passed away. Your dogs don’t inherit any of your genetic traits and they will not carry on any kind of legacy for you. For any person who has experienced the utterly devasting pain of losing a child, your words can be hurtful when you compare your experience with your dog to that of a child. While you may love your dog in a profound way, it’s simply not the same.
Anthropomorphism can be dangerous.
It’s one thing to put a funny outfit on your dog, or to allow your dog to sleep in your bed. But, when you start to think of your dog as an actual human, you run the risk of encouraging undesirable behaviors in your dog. For example, what happens when you allow your dog to eat off of your plate or fork? Your dog learns that it’s ok to eat off of your plate or fork… whenever he wants. You may think it’s cute and funny because it humanizes your dog, but he simply won’t understand why you’re so angry when he eats your entire steak off of your plate right in front of you. Dogs are capable of imitating people, but that does not make them people. Some dogs are said to be as intelligent as 2-year-old children. But consider this, would you ever lock your 2-year-old child in a crate for the day while you’re at work? (P.S. If you answered, “Yes,” then I can say without regret that babies are not the right choice for you).
You Don’t Need to Validate Your Love for Your Dog
There is nothing unusual about caring deeply for pets. They are part of our daily lives and they rely on us for everything, so they love us in their own way too. You shouldn’t have to justify your admiration for your pets to anyone. Many people, myself included, choose to care for animals and do not wish to care for children full-tim. So long as you understand that the two are mutually exclusive, you shouldn’t have to explain yourself to anyone. After all, it’s your life, and it’s your choice.