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Why Do People Get Pissed at Dog Moms?

dog mom
Vacationing with my dog son.

Dogs are the new kids: Trite for some, but true for me. There are people who just don’t get it. Recently, while at the park with my dog, I told him “go see Mommy” and pointed at my spouse.

This is something millions of people around the world do everyday, right? Refer to themselves as mommy, mom, or any number of similar references.  Dog moms (and dads) have arrived.

When a passerby with two small boys yelled over, “you call yourself Mommy for the dog,” I took offense.

“Of course I do and he responds to it, too,” I retorted, hairs on the back of my neck standing up.

He laughed and shot me a “um, wow, really” sort of look and walked away.

So what if we call each other mommy or mom or any other number of cultural references previously reserved for the human variety. Every dog gets his day, and this dog mom deserves hers a thousand times over. I wanted to see how the Internet defined me, so I Googled myself and came across my dog writings and musings and blog posts.

When I did a Google Image search of “dog mom,” however, not much pointed to me. Then the lightbulb came on: I did a Google Image search of “pet parents,” and there I was with my little boy, smiling for all the world to see. My little boy is a dog, I am a pet parent. At my core, I am a dog mom. Should dog owners be considered dog moms? It really depends on one’s definition of mom.

dog mom
Attending a black, er red, tie affair together

“You didn’t give birth, so you aren’t a mom!”

Giving birth does not make someone a mom. People adopt. I choose to spend my life with dogs, not children. It isn’t politically correct nor socially acceptable to question an adoptive human parent, so why question a dog mom? In many cases, the whole concept of pet parenting is that pets have replaced children for many of us. Some of us wait longer to be married, have fewer children, and prefer to dote upon the four-legged variety instead of the two-legged species.

dog mom
Dexter and my wife.

We all make choices

I’ve chosen to be a dog mom over a mom of human children, and I am not alone. In the eyes of the law, however, dogs are property. If someone harms your dog, they have essentially damaged your property. This makes you a property owner. Pretty unsentimental and demoralizing, isn’t it?

When’s the last time you sent a card that read “Happy Pet Ownership Day”? I’d much rather get one that beckons, “I love you, Mom.” Some prefer “guardian” or “custodian,” but to me, I am a dog mom. I own a coffee table, but I nurture my dog. From a legal perspective, some might argue that changing the terminology changes the way society treats animals. The last time you walked into a pet superstore, did it feel less like a pet supply store and more like aisles of carefully positioned and meticulously planned items targeted at the pet parent? If you lean toward the latter, you are right on target: Pet supply superstores that treat their customers more like parents and less like owners are seeing an increase in sales. Did you know that PetSmart changed its name from PetsMart to PetSmart over the years, indicating an overall shift in its branding? dog mom

The pet industry agrees

I attended the  Global Pet Expo, where thousands of pet products were launched to the masses in 2013. There, the president of the American Pet Products Association, Bob Vetere, shared, “I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say pet humanization is evident in every category of the marketplace.”

We’re humanizing our pets and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Science is on my side, too.

Have you heard of HABRI? It stands for the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative, which is in place to form a central database for all research relating to the human-animal bond.

I’m not alone in this line of thinking. Semantics and interpretative definitions aside, all us moms want is to love and to feel loved by our kids. Whether those kids bark or cry, sleep in a crib or take up too much room on the bed, we love them for it. If you are a better person for the love of another, then life is pretty damn good.

Do you like the title “dog mom/dad” or feel that it should be reserved for humans only? Bark at me in the comments! Why is this such a touchy subject to some people?

Here are a few dozen, or more, pet bloggers below that I’d love to hear from on this subject. While you’re here, what are your thoughts? Are you a dog mom? And what would you say if that passerby questioned your application of the word “mommy?” 

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  1. Great article as always! You are a dog MOM and Dexter is your baby boy. I gave birth to one human girl but feel in love and adopted a fury 4 legged daughter. If Cinnamon and Dexter could speak Im sure they would call us MOM!

    1. I think of how I met you – in that store in Maine a few years ago – you without your dog and us with Dexter. And now look at us, dog moms of the highest order 😉 SO good to hear from you. Hope to see you at BlogPaws Nashville in 2015, Cinnamon.

  2. We have always called ourselves Mama, Daddy, sister, and brother. My human children call our dogs their siblings. They even called our Golden Retriever, Tucker “the Golden Child.” We can tell Bentley that Mama, Daddy, Sister, or Brother is coming home and he gets so excited. To him, that is who we are. If people don’t understand that, the problem is clearly theirs. They are missing a wonderful relationship with their pets.

  3. I second Cinnamon’s comment: wonderful article! I totally see & treat Destiny as my baby and consider myself a mom. I can only speculate why people get upset with the idea of pet parents. Although I have no human babies, I know that parenting (any species) is a tireless job. I suspect a lot of parents to human babies are bitter, exhausted, and perhaps just need to vent, unfairly lashing out at anyone they deem as having less stress, less responsibility, more time or whatever. So perhaps their anger stems from envy or jealousy? Not really sure. But I would definitely tell that dude that just because I didn’t give birth doesn’t mean I’m not a fully devoted, loving, and responsible mom! I’d probably tell him where to shove his opinion too… 😉

    1. I bit my tongue because his kids were there near him – but some people are so danged nosy – and shove it is right LOL – ty Asia

  4. What a thoughtful article on the subject. I didn’t know about the shift in PetSmart’s name and I think that is a great way to highlight the shift in attitudes towards animals as more that property. Our dogs and cats are central aspects of our life and our activity. We plan our weekends around how we are going to get the dogs out for a long hike in the woods and how to provide the cats with enough safe outdoor time. At our house we don’t use the dog mom or dog dad title. We usually just use names. For example, Sallie will often say to Ava, “Go find Mark” when it is time to go out.

  5. My pets are as close to my children as I’ll ever have. Sure it’s not EXACTLY the same as raising human children, but there’s nothing about it that should offend people.

  6. I agree, great article!!! I, also am a proud Mom of teo adorable chihuahuas! At first, when I got Litchi, I wasn’t too sure about calling me that. But the bond became so strong, that it all came naturally! Even my own mom tells my dogs to go see Mommy!!! I did choose to have dog over human children and I’m quite happy with my choice!! Hurray for dog’s mom and dad!!!!

  7. Great post! When we “talk” to Edie (our pug), yes, we talk to our dog and the cats as well, we refer to ourselves as “mom/mommy and daddy” It’s very common to say “look Edie, daddy’s/mommy’s home! She responds, knows who we are referring to, she even has a human “Nana”
    I think the pet industry is becoming very aware that pets are a very big part in the lives of many, and realizing that in some families, the “pet” is the “child” in the family.
    I don’t think I ever refer to someone as “Oh, you’re Fido’s owner” It’s “Oh, you’re Fido’s Mom/Dad”

  8. I am a mom of humans AND cats. It certainly feels like I’m the cats’ mom…I feed them, keep them safe, sometimes wipe their butts, take them to appointments, take (many, many) photos of them, worry about them, am awoken at the crack of dawn by them, even tell them to stop whining. And, I love them unconditionally…even when they pee on my floor.

    Sounds an awful lot like what I do for my human kids, too! 🙂

  9. Unfortunately, some people think that having children validates them as a human, which is fine, but some people can’t understand that people think differently to them. Each to their own I say. I’m a dog mum, and I’m proud 🙂

  10. As a dog trainer, I often refer to my clients as moms and dads. That is what the relationship is. I just often have to remind them that their dogs are not children, but dogs… I think that’s an important distinction. Because to be the best dog mom/dad you can be, a pet parents has to keep in mind what is required to FULFILL their dog’s needs first! And true fulfillment only comes with appropriate activity, reinforcement and disipline (not punishment). i.e. To have a beagle that loves to snuggle with you in the evenings, you have to make sure he gets a nice long walk to work his nose, rewarding him with nose work games in the back yard and healthful meals, everyday!

  11. Thanks for posting this-I totally agree. We are parents to 3 dogs and 8 cats. We were never able to have human childrean and feel that God blessed us to be parents of his cats and dogs. Going to share this post with others.

  12. I don’t refer to myself as mom when speaking to my dogs but my hubby tells her to go see her mom! My daughter also says oh look Mommys home ! does that mean my daughter (17) thinks she is her sister? no lol We care for, sit up all night with and dote on our pets! Doesn’t that make us Pet Mom material?
    Nothing wrong with it that I can see! I know people who refer to themselves as grandparents to their childrens dogs too!

  13. I use the terms dogmom and guardian (which really with the number of times Mort has been at the vet… I feel like I’m doing daily! Guarding him from himself and impending disaster…). I talk to my dogs on the walk and in the park – I’m pretty sure I’m raising eyebrows on that one and the fact I look, act, and dress pretty eccentrically half the time! Most of the time.

    We also inadvertently trained Mort the “Where’s Mom?” and “Where’s Dad” cue. I’m not sure if he knows “Where’s Mom” is to come find me, or go find the other human in the house, but the other day he actually did a full house search to find the other human then stopped and stared at him… so we know it’s more than mere pointing now. So yes, I guess we do use the terms in our household! Honestly I didn’t really want to use those terms at all, and I’m not sure why, but I suppose they cropped up organically. And I think the reason why is what you so eloquently describe above.

  14. I feed and bathe my boys and those entrusted to me as fosters. I take care of their health needs with regular visits to the health care professional and with preventative measures. I keep them warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. I make sure they get the mental and physical exercise they need. I play games with them. I talk to them and listen to what they say. I clean up poop, pee, blood, and vomit. I soothe fears. I share joys. I miss them when I’m away. They miss me, too. I teach them and guard them. They trust me and look to me. I lay in the grass, soaking up the sun with them and explore the world with them. We cuddle close at night. They nestle their heads against me and heave one huge sigh each before drifting off. Oh, and my boys and fosters are all canine. If that is not motherhood, I don’t know what is.

  15. I have been a “Dog Mom” since I had my first dog as an adult in 1990. I have had special needs dogs over the years including now. They are my children. I love them as if I gave birth to them. If someone has a problem with that, then that’s exactly what it is…THEIR problem and not mine. I am proud and blessed to be a dogmom.

  16. I feel that I am a dog mom as well. I have strong maternal instincts every since I was a young girl. My two Shih Tzus are my babies. I have raised them,up all night with them if they don’t feel well. Clean them,feed them,love them. Just because we choose not to have human children does not mean we cannot be motherly.

    1. This is a great line: “Just because we choose not to have human children does not mean we cannot be motherly.”

  17. I don’t think this is a debate that dog moms and dads will ever win; pesky opposites will always argue back. So instead of engaging, why not send $1 to a rescue for every minute you spend on this topic online? (OK, I owe $2.)

  18. So much to say here so where should I start?
    1. The “mom” title issue: I’ve worked with many abused children in my practice and know that the single event of giving birth is far from bringing a person the caring, loving, protective skills that are often associated with being a “mom.” I’ve also worked with families who adopted a child (and or a pet) who are definitively and without a doubt– loving and caring moms and dads.

    2. As a woman who doesn’t have children and as a loving dog mama, I cannot say how insulted I feel when I hear people saying that I am so into my dog because he replaces the human children that I never had. It insults me because it insults my intelligence at so many levels. I totally know that my dog is not a human baby – thank you very much. I did NOT get a dog to replace anything in my life; I got a dog because I wanted a DOG. I have always loved dogs, my family always had dogs, and I love to have dogs in my life. I would have been the same dog mom if I had human children – my mom was just like me and she had both kids and rescue furry babies in her life that she adored and she was “mama” for all of us.

    I am very aware of who is who in my life, I am able to distinguish an animal from a human being and even with all these skills (lol) I still adore my sweetheart who is an endearing rescue dog and for whom I want to offer the best loving life possible and yes I am his mama!

    3. I can’t wait for the law to change the concepts that pets are “properties.” Again, not because I am totally delusional and think that my dog is a human baby (I think I’ve clarified this concept enough) but because dogs/pets are being abused and tortured (used as bate in dog fights) every day and the legal authorities cannot do much about it (even if they want to!) because the law treats your beloved pets as if he or she was nothing more than a thing/property. Another thing that I wish would be changed in the law is that the cases of abuse (humans and pets) would fall under criminal laws instead of civil laws. By changing such thing; the punishment of abusers would be MUCH harsher and the sentence much more serious.
    Thank you, Carol for this article. Very interesting!

  19. Y’know, it really just depends on the family and what they’re comfortable with. My dogs are my babies. I have human children and dog children. My level of care for each is different, dependent on their needs. My dogs don’t need nearly as much time and attention as the kids do, thank goodness. But they’re good babies.

  20. My husband refuses to be referred to as Beamer’s “dad” and he will not refer to me as Beamer’s “mom.” However, I refer to myself as Beamer’s Mom and that’s fine with me. I feed, medicate, clean-up after, take him to the doctor, wash him, clip him, train him, love on him. He is a fur-kid. I have a human kid too. If we had adopted him, he would still be our child, right?
    Call yourself whatever you feel comfortable with. Many people refer to family friends as Aunts and Uncles, but they’re not actually related by blood.

  21. I’ve referred to myself as “mommy” with regard to my dogs for may years. I have three two-legged daughters, and now that they are grown, my babies are my dogs and cats. I see nothing wrong with using parent-terms when referring to myself. Of course, as an animal rescuer/animal rights advocate, I am always pushing for change in the way society (and the law) sees animals – especially those who live in homes with humans. I’m against the term “owner”, as to me that implies that the dog , cat, etc. is a piece of property and doesn’t have any rights. Animals are abused daily here in the US, and as long as they are property, their “owners” will not be held accountable. At the very least, I believe the term “owner” needs to be replaced with “guardian”. While dogs and cats aren’t human, they are intelligent, sensitive beings that feel emotion, feel pain, and have many traits some people only acknowledge as being human. Dogs can be happy, sad, lonely, depressed, etc.

    Just last night we had thunderstorms, which two of my precious furbabies are extremely fearful of. They sleep on my bed, and of course, once the storms started, came to me and of course I told them that mommy wouldn’t let anything happen to them and then cuddled with them until the storms were over. I remember doing the same thing with my two-legged babies, and in many ways it was exactly the same thing.

  22. They ARE your children! I’m more of a cat person than dog person, but I totally get what you’re saying. Some of you choose to have a more complete relationship with your fur child, by including them in events and activities. It makes sense to me that they’d rather be outside running around in a park, playing frisbee or even paddle boarding. (my nieces fur child goes on all of her paddle board outings.) I really feel bad for the dogs that get left at home. Of course they don’t know that there is a difference, so I’m sure they’re happy (I know many of these types too), but I vote for those of you who go so far as to include them as part of the family. Yay for you!
    Signed, The Cat Lady 🙂

  23. I always call my Mom ‘Momma’ and so it is whether others agree or not. Dogs do so much for people – save their lives (seizure alert, diabetic, allergy, ptsd, hearing, sight, sound), save other pets’ lives, help people with daily tasks, provide companionship and comfort for those who are ill. Now we’re finding that some dogs can even find cancer cells on people’s skins and that is being researched. They even help rescue people during disasters. So, with all this stuff they do – if dogs were human – they would be superheroes. So why not? They are the only animal on earth who can do all these things, they deserve to have Moms and Dads and more. I love my Momma. So there. ;o)

  24. I know exactly who my mom and dad are. And I’m a dog LOL. People without animals don’t know anything about those things. Grrr.

  25. It’s sad that you’ve run into this situation. I’ve always been the proud Mom to my dogs, cats and human son. We are a multi-species family and better for it. I feel sorry for the person who questioned your mom status. He’s probably never experienced the love a dog can bring to a family.

  26. My mom always wanted a family with four kids, but even as a little girl, she dressed up her stuffed animals and treated them like they were dolls. She says it was a sign of what was to come. Kids weren’t in the cards for her, but she loves us fur kids as much as anything in the world. She calls herself our mom and is proud of all of us. Many times she is thankful for us as kids rather than the human variety. A mom is someone that cares for another being, so for us it works! Maybe that person in the park was just jealous or very ignorant!

    1. Ooooh I so adore this, Emma: “A mom is someone that cares for another being, so for us it works! “

  27. OF COURSE I am a dog mom!!! I have never had someone say something like that to me yet!!
    My fur babies are my babies, as well as my human babies!
    I am not sure what I would say, should I ever be criticized of that! I imagine I would get pretty defensive!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    1. We have had rude comments on more than one occasion, and generally while minding our own business. ugh.

  28. I’m a parent…of humans, dogs and cats. I don’t own my dogs or cats any more than I own my human children. I think folks who don’t live with pets just don’t understand–and that’s okay, as long as they don’t judge.

    If you ever get a chance to talk to someone who is a first-time pet parent, you’ll see what I mean. They seem to be nearly always surprised at the strength of their love and bond. Because they didn’t know.

    So I forgive most people for their ignorance. And I mostly feel sad–that they’ve never had the chance to know the truly amazing experience of living with–and loving–and learning from–another species who is part of your family.

    –Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

  29. I call myself of dog mom, TheFurMom is my username on many sites. I don’t get the big deal either. The most offensive thing I’ve heard is “when you have kids, you won’t feel the same way about your dogs.” I unfriended that person.

  30. Yes, I am a dog-mom. We call Rita “baby” and she knows us as “Momma” and “Daddy”. If someone made a comment about it, I’d probably ask them “What do you care?” (Admittedly in a very rude tone!) But, really, if they have a problem with it, or are negative about it – it’s their problem, not mine! I know on the other hand some folks have a problem with people who refer to themselves as a dog’s “owner.” I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t really care what people call themselves in relation to their pups – as long as they treat them well and show them love.

  31. In my opinion, a mom…is a mom…is a mom. I ask my mom’s dog Jimmy where Mom is. She is my mom (by birth) as equal as she is Jimmy’s mom by adoption. I think that we bring our pets into our family, and they fit into our family tree alongside humans. I have many people in my life that are brothers and sisters to me, although I am an only child. I believe we can’t choose who is born into our family, but we can choose who we bring into our family, both animals and humans included 🙂

  32. Love your blog!!! You go Carol and you have millions behind you saying the same thing! I am Schooner and Skipper’s mommy. My husband is their daddy! Schooner and Skipper also have 2 legged brother and when Sam, Seth, Saul come to visit we always say to Schooner and Skipper here comes your brother Sam. We always say go get mommy or daddy.

  33. Such a good post. My husband and I refer to each other as “mom” and “dad” to our dogs. We do plan to have human children someday, but that doesn’t mean I still won’t be mom to my four legged babies. I would do anything for my dogs, just like I would for my own child. I hate that there seems to be such a discourse between people that only have pets and those who choose to have babies and pets. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “just wait til you have kids” in reference to how I care for my dogs. I love that people are starting to humanize pets. I think it’s going to lead to a better world for them. Isn’t that what matters?

    1. Love this: ” I think it’s going to lead to a better world for them. Isn’t that what matters?”

  34. Letting mom talk for me today:

    I loved this, I actually just shared the “Pet(S)mart” tidbit with a good friend tonight as we were talking about our dog business.

    I’m not sure if it’s my age, where I live, or just who I have surrounded myself with, but I have more friends that are pet parents than who are parents to human children. We refer to ourselves as Mommy and Daddy when talking about Olive (and the moms and grandmom refer to her as the grand and great-grand puppy). Luckily, it feels normal in our social circle!

    That said, I think sometimes the “title” upsets people because they are invested in their own title as mom/dad to human children. As much as I adore Olive (and I DO!) my whole self isn’t wrapped up in being a dog parent, while I do meet the odd person who is completely defined by their parenthood (human). I think the dog parent movement causes a problem with some people because they feel it takes away from that definition. But the simple answer to that is that isn’t my problem, it isn’t yours, and I love spending time with my dog, and that’s that!

    (Thank you so much for this article!)

  35. Nearly everyday I sing out to my dogs, “Daddy’s home!!” and they know exactly what I mean. My OH will tell them, “Go see mommy” and they come running over to me.

    He has human children, and was already *fixed* when I adopted him. : ) I am perfectly fine with all of this.

  36. We don’t call ourselves Mum and Dad to our 9 cats but, I wrote a blog post having come across the term ‘pat parent’ when someone explained to me that it was meant to give credit and confirmation that a per is part of the family, not a possession and I agreed 100%. I’m English so the whole Dog Mom thing does not sit comfortably with me but I can see that it has value to thousands of dog and cat mums and dads and as long as they don’t mind me NOT using it I am fine with the concept. Either way the deep bond between us and our cats can be named or not named – I think what bothers some people is that it is there in the first place.

  37. Yup, I call myself a “pet parent” and a “dog mom”. Also refer to my husband as Simba’s “daddy”. When I come through the door from work my husband said “Mommy’s home Simba” and he dashes towards the door. I don’t see a thing wrong with it. He’s apart of my family and I care for him like I would a child. I don’t see the big deal. People are weird. LOL, but no one curr…I will still refer to myself as such.

  38. Agreed, agreed, and even more so agreed! I love my two big babies with a passion. They are family and to me, they are the “fur-babies”. This article really touched on key points we all have felt or thought of at some point as parents to these love bugs. Go moms!

    Also, I just wanted to post this here so maybe others would be willing to help this baby out. He’s not in my area but he could really use the help!!!! Thank you guys!!!!!

  39. I have 2 dachshunds and a beagle and I talk to them all the time as if they were young children, and I know they like it because their tails don’t stop wagging. If they have been naughty, they get their name (including our surname) and a finger pointing and a firm No, and they potter to their bed but that is very rare. Though some might laugh at my giving them our surname. But they are just as much part of the family. Even our vet puts their name and surname on medication bottles. So yeah I am a dog

  40. My husband and I don’t have human children and are often asked, “So when are you going to have kids?” Our response, “We have 4, what are you talking about? They just happen to have fur.” We have two cats and two dogs, and call ourselves mom and dad. If we are looking for eachother we’ll send the dogs to, “go find mom!” or dad… and they do! They know who’s who. And when we pack up to go somewhere we often find ourselves saying phrases such as, “Come on kids!” We love dog training, and have spent a lot of time working with our pups so that they can be bully breed ambassadors. We feed them high quality food and care about their nutrition, exercise them 2+ times a day, and take them wherever we can. They get rewarded for good behavior and disciplined with love (not punished cruelly) for bad behavior and they are more behaved than most human kids we see!

    Proud to be a mama here! 🙂

  41. I loved this piece! I was actually having lunch with a good friend who has a two year old and is pregnant with her second baby and I was talking about the trials and tribulations of housebreaking our puppy. She looked at me and said “Puppies are really a lot like babies, aren’t they?” I think it’s so funny how parents to human children sometimes get so offended by comparing them or the even more innocent treating of your “pets” like children.

  42. BARK!! You are definitely a Dog Mom! I’m going to school to be a dog trainer and I know first hand that people love and adore their dogs like children and so do I!! I also know that dogs are so smart and loving sometimes you would forget they are animals if it wasn’t for the fur and tail!! Don’t listen to what anyone says because all that matters is that you love your fur kids and they love you too!!

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