The Pros and Cons of Treating Your Dog Like a Baby

Jacqueline Bennett with Yellow Dog, all dressed up.

Dressing your dog up and carrying him around? Probably not a good idea. But we’ve been guilty of it, too.

Most pet parents are guilty of it at one point or another—babying your dog. Whether it’s extra cookies, carrying them around, dressing them up in cute outfits or letting them get their way, we can treat our furry friends the way we would treat our toddlers. But could this be making a good dog go bad?

We talked to The Pooch Coach, San Francisco based dog trainer Beverly Ulbrich, to outline the pros and cons of treating your dog like a child.

Signs You’re Guilty of Babying

You might not even realize you’re doing it, but there is a good chance you’ve babied your dog.

“There is a wide range of possibilities,” Ulbrich says. “But typically it has to do with owners feeding into bad behavior, such as begging or whining, or allowing their dog to not obey commands.”

Here are some common behaviors that baby our dogs:

  • Giving into whining or barking for attention or food
  • Carrying an able-bodied dog around or pushing him in a stroller
  • Letting your dog ignore commands he knows
  • Not correcting bad behavior such as posturing, resource guarding, and forms of aggression—including dog-on-dog aggression, food aggression, and people aggression

Dangers of Spoiling

Giving your dog too much attention or letting him run the show will almost always result in acting out.

“Dogs without firm leadership will lack confidence and direction and be fearful and then usually aggressive,” Ulbrich says. “I’ve seen dogs bully their own guardians to the point where they fear them. For instance, there are dogs that do not allow their owners to take food away, brush them, or even get into their own beds.”

little man cookie

Make sure your dog knows you’re in charge and doesn’t ignore your commands. If he doesn’t obey, it’s probably time to be more firm.

Spoiling your dog could even put his life in danger.

“It can mean the dogs are ignoring commands that could save their lives,” Ulbrich says.

Ulbrich suggests thinking of your dog as a 4 or 5-year-old child and ask if you would allow the same behavior.

“Would it be okay if you had to ask your child to go to bed three times and then have to bribe him with a cookie to go,” Ulbrich asks. “Is it okay if your child lashes out in anger when you take his plate away? Can your child demand attention whenever and however he wants by throwing a noisy fit?”

A good rule of thumb: if you think your dog’s behavior would be rude or dangerous if he were a child, it’s probably rude or dangerous for a dog.

“Be more firm with him and know that your most important job is protecting and teaching him, not spoiling him,” Ulbrich says.

Bottom Line

Being a pet parent is fun but not without responsibility. If you want a happy and well-adjusted dog, it might be time to put your foot down.

“Just as loving your child includes teaching him safety and boundaries, you need to teach your dog these things as well,” Ulbrich says. “Giving your dog too much freedom will just lead to spoiling at a minimum and possibly getting injured in the worst cases.”

For more insight on how to avoid babying your dog and to raise a dog right, check out these helpful tips from The Pooch Coach.

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