Why I Consider Myself A ‘Puppy Parent’ And Not A ‘Dog Owner’

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Puppy Parent. Mutt Mom. Doggy Daddy. My husband and I have used all of these phrases to describe each other or ourselves. In our eyes, we are acting as the parents of the dogs that reside in our household.

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I used the phrase Puppy Parent the other day and found out that some people don’t understand how I can feel this way.  I’d like to try to explain why I feel like a Puppy Parent and not a Dog Owner.

Our dogs are members of our family, and we’ve fallen in love with herding dogs, both for their high activity levels and their brains.

We adopt and foster dogs

We bring animals into our home that need to be loved and taken care of, adopting them as part of our families.  We foster dogs who need a temporary place to go.  Dogs come into our lives at a young age, and they look to us for guidance as they grow and learn.  They want to please us and make us happy.

We educate our dogs

We sign our dogs up for obedience school to learn the training basics and we teach them more difficult tricks as time goes on.  We buy balls for them to play fetch with us, and we buy toys that keep them occupied while we’re not home, like puzzle toys that dispense treats.  We play Frisbee in the yard when it’s a nice day and fetch down the hallway when it’s raining.  Our dogs sure do keep me moving!

We take our dogs with us to the park, on walks, and to friends’ houses, if they are welcome.  Our dogs have doggy friends who they love to play with while we visit with their people.  Our dogs even know the names of our friends and will become upset if they’re not allowed to go with us.

We monitor our dogs’ health

We take our dogs to the vet for regular checkups, to make sure that there are no health problems.  When a dog unexpectedly becomes ill, we take them in for care.  When they need medicine for preventive or acute care, we make sure they get it.  We once had a dog with Addison’s disease, and it required a trip to the vet every month for a $125 injection, plus some other daily meds at home.

We also make sure our dogs get the nutrients they need and aren’t getting too many treats.  Overweight dogs get placed on a healthy diet and exercise regimen.  We make sure they get their teeth brushed, nails trimmed, and groomed.  Long haired dogs, which ours are, can get very bad mats if grooming isn’t performed regularly.

We love and comfort our dogs

I’ve had dogs run to me for comfort during a thunderstorm, shaking in my arms until the thunder passes.  I’ve stayed up with a sick dog, holding him most of the night until the vet’s office opened and we could get him in to see what he ate that was making him so ill (it was coins).  I’ve had a shaking, 55 pound dog in my lap on July 4th, whining and crying.



I’ve held dogs as they’ve taken their last breath, after they were given the shot that will put them gently and humanely to sleep.  I’ve woken to find the still-warm body of a dog who passed quietly in the night, the dog who loved me more than any dog had before, or has since. And I sobbed.

If these actions aren’t the same as those one takes with a child, then I guess I don’t know how to be a parent, because they are the very same things I did for my own child.  You take care of them, teach them, love them.  And in return, what do dogs give us?

Unconditional love.  Always, unconditional love.  They lick our tears away when we’re sad, make us laugh, play with us, protect us, assist us.  They greet us at the door like we’ve been gone for days when it’s really only been a few hours.  They give the elderly meaning, help the infirm or differently abled, keep a child’s secrets.  They ask for so little in return.

In the end, I can’t be a ‘Dog Owner’ because I don’t own a dog.  He owns me.

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