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More on "Pet Parents"
Posted on 09/09/2013 in Coonhound Bloodlines Editor's Comments.

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More On “Pet Parents”
In the January 2012 issue of COONHOUND BLOODLINES (and the February 2012 issue of BLOODLINES Dog Event News, and the February March 2012 issue of HUNTING RETRIEVER ), my editorial focused on the trend towards labeling dog owners as “pet parents” and the ramifications of that kind of labeling. I hypothesized that “The advertising industry has slowly become aware of those who consider their dogs as their kids,” and who decided to capitalize on that market by creating “a new, very unique group of dog owners … called ‘pet parents’”. I predicted that we would find that phrase used in many dog and animal food and supply ads in the future. My biggest concern at that time was that it could possibly cause an even greater rift in the dog world, and that would not bode well for us who hope to present a united front to those who would take away our rights.

It’s a short 18+ months later and “pet parents” has become an accepted term in dog food and pet supply commercials (in print and on tv), and is routinely used by all major dog food companies, bar none. Being able to tag themselves as “parents” of non-humans has been embraced by a significant segment of our society in the U.S. The varied motivations for this are too many to discuss here, but I do have to say that some of them are a little “out there”.

Dogs are dogs, and people are people, and the way each are treated depends on the intelligence and capabilities of each. Anyone who treats their dog as a human puts unreasonable expectations on the animal. Unfortunately, too many of those same “parents” make excuses for their “children” and the resulting unacceptable behaviors that might result simply because dogs just don’t operate the same as a human.

Dogs live in the moment, and react instinctively and impulsively to outside stimuli. If a dog is loose in the yard and sees something interesting across the road, and they haven’t been taught basic obedience (stay, for example), they will run across the road. Sometimes they don’t make it because they were completely oblivious of the oncoming car. This is virtually the same way a two- or three-year-old child would react. Children must be taught to handle situations like this. Dogs can’t be expected to reason through them. They need to be reminded each time to “Stop and Stay”. As human children get older, they begin to reason and will eventually understand the ramifications of non-cautious behavior. In essence, pet parents commit themselves to be caretakers of a perpetual two-year-old.

I guess that’s their personal decision to make. It’s a big world, made up of all kinds of people with different interests, and we learn to accept those differences. It’s what makes life interesting. What alarms me is that dog people are developing into two such distinct groups that any possibility of them agreeing with each other on important issues is becoming close to impossible. Dog food companies have already recognized that phenomenon and are manufacturing products aimed at what I call “real dog people” as well as pet parents, two societies that are so far removed from each other as to not be recognizable as the same. Food produced for the performance dog is, for the most part, a no-nonsense kibble marketed concentrating on their health and performance qualities. Food for others is often disguised as “people” food, using characteristics that appeal to the human more than they do to the dogs. Do dog really care that their food is colored to reflect the basic food groups, sometimes with the kibble in the shape of vegetables?

My purpose here is not to criticize the dog food companies. They are doing what they think is necessary to make money. What bothers me, and has from the beginning, is the rift that is being encouraged and even more accepted.

What does this mean for us? It means we have to be even more careful of how we treat our dogs, especially when we are in the public eye. Like it or not, tying dogs out on chains, and keeping them confined in dog boxes or crates is considered deplorable not only by non-animal-owning animal rights activists but also by a significant segment of “pet parents”. Be careful to not set yourself up for criticism, and also go out of your way to educate others about your dogs and their uses.