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Spot The Dog-Owner Difference: Dog Lover Vs. Dog Parent

Recently there’s been some debate about the difference between a dog lover and a dog parent, with people who identify with each title making some sweeping judgments about the other. For example:

  • Dog parents dress up their dogs.
  • Dog lovers learn how to use a dremel on their dog’s nails at home because the clippers and the groomer stress them out.
  • Dog parents host birthday parties and/or buy birthday cakes for their dogs.
  • Dog lovers plan their weekend mornings around visits to the dog park.
  • Dog parents run Instagram accounts for their dogs.
  • Dog lovers make Instagram posts with/about their dogs.

That said, there are always exceptions to the rule! And we believe that your status as a dog lover or a dog parent is more of a sliding scale based on your approaches to socializing your dog, having a dog-proof home, and being a dog-safe person.

Are you curious about what kind of dog owner you are? Get a pencil and write down the points you earn from answering each of the three questions below (or just remember to count it out on your fingers). Then add up your total and see where you land on our dog-lover-to-dog-parent scale!

The Quiz: Are You A Dog Lover Or A Dog Parent?

Question 1: What Do You Do When You See Another Dog?

  • Smile and make eye contact with the dog. Realize that might seem creepy, so make prolonged eye contact and smile at the owner. Regret looking away from the dog. (+2)
  • Pet the dog and move on. (+1)
  • Ask the owner if you can pet their dog, then ask the dog’s name, age, breed, where they got their leash, etc. (+3)
  • None of the above. (+0)

Question 2: How Do You Feel When You’re Out Of The House For An Evening?

  • Sort of guilty! Your dog is home alone wondering where you are! Is whatever you’re doing worth missing out on spending time with your pup? (+3)
  • Great! It’s only for a few hours, and it’s nice to see your friends! Plus, you fed and walked your dog before you left home, and you turned some lights on because it’ll be dark when you get back. (+1)
  • A little anxious… Maybe you should text your neighbor and ask them to go over and let your dog out to do their business? You have one of those wifi pet cameras set up so you can at least check in on what they’re up to a couple of times while you’re gone. (+2)
  • None of the above. (+0)

Question 3: Which Of The Following Items Do You Have In Your House/Yard? (select ALL that apply!)

  • Dog-themed home decor, like pillows, wall art, aprons, or doormats. (+1)
  • Human-grade items (blankets, pillows, food, closet organizers) purchased explicitly — and exclusively — for the dog. (+3)
  • Any kind of enrichment toy for your dog, like treat puzzles. (+2)
  • None of the above. (+0)

Tallying Your Results: Are You A Dog Lover Or A Dog Parent?

  • 0: … do you like dogs?
  • 1-3: You like dogs, but you’re not really a full-fledged dog lover.
  • 4-6: You love dogs! But you don’t treat your dog like they’re a person.
  • 7-9: You’re on the fence, but definitely made of dog parent material.
  • 10-12: You’re one dedicated dog parent!

dog mom

There Are No Wrong Answers Or Bad Outcomes, Only Opportunities To Learn How To Better Dog-Proof Your Behavior

What We Have In Common: Dog Lovers & Dog Parents Both Sometimes Overthink Things

If you scored more than 4 points, you may tend to go a little overboard when it comes to making sure your dog is living their best life. Both dog lovers and dog parents have a habit of forgetting that, so long as they take care of the dog’s basic needs, it’s ok to focus on something else. For example, as long as your house is dog-safe and the toys and items you’ve left within your dog’s reach are dog-proof, you can be away from home for a few hours without worrying or feeling bad about what your dog is doing now that you’ve left them alone. This is especially true if you’ve taken the time to socialize your dog for being alone.

[Read more about keeping your dog happy when they’re home alone here!]

What A Dog Lover Knows That A Dog Parent Might Need A Refresher On

Someone who hasn’t yet crossed the line from being a dog lover to a dog parent probably still spends a lot of time trying to understand how to make their dog’s life better. A bonafide dog parent usually feels like they intuitively know, and (because they are not a dog) their intuition can be off-center.

For example, both dog parents and dog lovers want their dogs to feel happy at home. But dog lovers tend to make a special effort to socialize the dog with other animals, people, and (critically) on their own. Solo-socializing a dog usually involves crate-training and stocking the space with age-appropriate and enrichment-focused dog toys. Dog lovers (usually) stay focused on the idea that a dog-safe space containing dog-proof things is the best place for a dog (even if the dog-safe room isn’t chic or cozy by human standards).

Conversely, a dog parent’s impulses often lead them to buy comfort items suited for a human, and may actually cause them to bring things into the house that aren’t dog-proof or dog-safe. Similarly, a lot of amazingly good dog parents refuse to crate-train or otherwise solo-socialize a dog, usually because they feel the dog doesn’t like it.

[Read more about making sure your house is dog-safe here!]

What A Dog Parent Knows That A Dog Lover Could Learn From

Dog lovers are right that dogs aren’t people. But dog parents know (and embrace the fact) that there is no such thing as a “standard” dog. That is, you can’t expect that every dog will react the same way to the same things.

For example, while a dog parent may look a little crazy asking all those questions about a stranger’s pet, it’s important that they’re asking. This line of questioning is rooted in the idea that people, too, need to be dog-safe, so it’s valuable that they’re prioritizing being a dog-safe person. It gives the owner a chance to say “no, he’s a service dog” or “no, he doesn’t like strangers/being pet” or to give specific instructions like “only pet him on his back; he’s head shy/nippy.”

Being a dog-safe person — which is just being willing to modify your behavior based on the best practices for how to people-socialize a dog — helps you better socialize your dog(s) and also socialize better with dogs, which is a win-win.

[Read more about proper dog-petting etiquette here!]

What did you score on the quiz? Leave a comment below!

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