What Do You Mean I Spoil My Dog?

Has anyone accused you of spoiling your dog?

Any number of people have said it to me. It’s a statement usually delivered with a smile, as if the person saying it is making a moral judgment but pretending not to.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder what they’re trying to say to me. And it makes me want to stand up straight, put my hands on my hips, and say in a loud voice, “What do you mean I spoil my dog?

Honey the Golden Retriever is a lap dog.

So people think it will ruin my character if I sit on a lap? It’s more likely to ruin your wardrobe.

Define “Spoil”

Spoiling something is not a good thing. It means to ruin or make it worse.

When you apply it to individuals, though, it brings on a load of judgment.

The third definition of the American Heritage dictionary says spoiling is “to do harm to the character, nature, or attitude of by oversolicitude, overindulgence, or excessive praise.”

Really? You think I’m damaging Honey’s character, nature, or attitude because I buy her healthy food, let her sit on the furniture, and tell her she’s cute?

Golden Retriever with an orange stuffed duck in her mouth

First I sit on the chair. Then I take over the world. Bwa hahahahahaha!

In truth, these definitions come from people’s thoughts about raising children. But Honey is not a child. And the idea of spoiling a dog’s character by paying her too much attention is bogus.

So people who accuse me of spoiling my dog—what are you trying to tell me? Really? Just be straight.

Judging Spoiled

I suspect most people who tell me I spoil Honey are letting me know they think I’m giving things to Honey that a dog is not worthy of.

Expensive and healthy food? She’s just a dog. (I should pay thousands in vet bills instead of keeping her healthy from the beginning?)

Allowing her on the couch? Furniture is for humans. (Says who, exactly?)

Changing my schedule so I can get home to spend time with her? A dog shouldn’t dictate how you spend your time. (I adopted a dog so I could leave her alone at home and not pay her any attention?)

Honey the Golden Retriever rides in her bike trailer.

People think you’re spoiling me because you bought this expensive bike cart. I agree. Get me out of this darn thing.

In order words, the subtext behind people telling me I spoil my dog is probably “I don’t understand why you do those things for your dog.” And in some cases, “I don’t understand and I think you’re ridiculous.”

And you know what? I don’t care.

Besides, it’s not like I’m free of judgment about the way other people treat their dogs myself.

Are You Spoiling Your Dog Or Spoiling Yourself

If you look carefully at the thousands of pictures of Honey I’ve posted on Something Wagging, you’ll notice a few things:

  • Honey is always naked.
  • Honey always has the same collar on, until it wears out and I buy her a new one.
  • Honey and I don’t coordinate our appearance in any way.

I choose not to dress Honey. Even on the coldest day, she’s comfortable in her own fur. I don’t buy her collar jewelry. We never match our “looks.” (Of course, my “look” is early thrift shop and it’s hard to coordinate when your only fashion choice is, “Does it fit?”)

I used to wonder why people dressed their dogs in costumes or painted their nails. But I’ve come to realize that many dogs don’t care about such things one way or the other. And it wasn’t my place to judge how people enjoy spending time with their dogs, as long as their dogs appear to be happy and loved.

Golden Retriever in Turquoise Bandana

At least the woman and I are in agreement about dogs in clothes. Get me out of this thing.

Besides fashion plate pet people are not spoiling their dogs when they pay this extra attention to his or her appearance. They’re spoiling themselves. And what the heck is wrong with that? We could probably all use a little more spoiling in our lives.

How To Spoil Your Dog

I do believe it’s possible to spoil your dog, in the sense of making him worse or ruining him. It happens when you do things to your dog:

  • to spoil yourself without paying attention to how it makes your dog feel
  • that prevent her from being a confident and curious dog

Is painting your dog’s toenails spoiling her? Nope. Not unless you have to hold her down to give her that pet-i-cure or unless you prevent her from walking outside for fear of chipping those nails.

How about feeding little nibbles or training treats? As long as your dog remains healthy, you’re good.

It’s time for us to stop worrying about people who think we’re spoiling our dogs by feeding them high-quality diets, taking them to trainers or doctors who can help them feel more comfortable in the human world, and by giving them enriching activities to enjoy.

Maybe we need to remind people what the word “spoil” really means. And suggest that where dogs are concerned, they’re more likely to be “spoiled” by lack of attention, lack of training, and lack of care than by too much.

Does training make your dog happy?

Don’t you dare tell me I’m spoiled. I just had a bath.

Your Turn: Has anyone accused you of spoiling your dog? How did you feel? How did you respond?







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  1. Once a friend told me that they’d seen my book mentioned in another book entitled “Rabid: Are you crazy about your dog or just crazy?” I obtained a copy of the book and cringed, worried that I might be deemed “crazy.” Fortunately, “Dieting with my Dog” was listed among other memoirs about dogs to illustrate the wide spectrum of dog books available–I guess the reader was left on their own to determine if it’s crazy to keep your pet fit and healthy. But, overall, the book details what they consider the difference between being a loving pet parent…or going to the extreme in ways that go beyond what you and I and others do to be responsible and loving, and treating them like the part of the family they deserve.

    • I’d love to read that book. Or maybe I wouldn’t.

      Either way, any number of dogs would be lucky to be “spoiled” by you.

  2. Thank you!! I get so tired of hearing that I spoil my dogs. They are a part of our family and we treat them as such. I’m not going to eat crap every day so I’m certainly not going to feed it to my dogs. The dogs are happy, I’m happy, my husband’s happy…. That’s what matters :)

  3. The words spoil and dog go together like p’butter and jelly! I believe it’s all part of the human nature of a dog lover. We have dogs to be A PART of our family, we do everything with our dogs. I feed my children as well as my husband and I feed ourselves so it’s only natural to feed our dogs the same way no matter the cost. I am a dog lover to the core of my soul and if people see that as “spoiling” then so be it! They deserve nothing less than that!! :0)

  4. Ha – I’ve gotten the eye-rolls before when I’ve said I can’t stay for dinner at someone’s house because I have to get home to feed Blueberry. Whatever. I’ve always thought that people that tell me I’m too crazy about my dog or spoil her that they are really just trying to make themselves feel better about the crappy way they treat their own dogs. I do the best I can for Blueberry and if that’s considered “spoiling” her, so be it. I’m not letting other people’s judgments determine how I treat her.

    • I should have added a smiley face – just reread my response and realize I sound a bit harsh! :)

      • The crazy thing is some of those same people think nothing of someone who doesn’t move from their couch because they want to spend it with the Game of Thrones families or the Orange is the New Black cast.

        Personally, going home to spend time with my dog feels slightly less dysfunctional. :)

  5. Yes, Mom spoils us, but it is for us and sometimes for Mom. We have a ton of collars that we don’t care about, but Mom feels good when we are wearing a nice collar. We get top food and treats because she wants us healthy. If people think we are spoiled we really don’t care, because Mom wants us to be happy and she enjoys having us look good. We are her girls and if people think we are spoiled, it just may be a jealousy thing coming through.

  6. I like to think that I’m “loving my dog” and love like anything else varies from person to person. Leo’s taught me that life ca be incredibly short – so give it your all everyday to include love….

  7. We’ve been accused of that and I don’t mind. The pups are my “kids” – not so much as I think of them as babies, but they are something that I love and I love to be with them. So what if they are spoiled? We are both happy and that is all that matters.

    Monty and Harlow

  8. I definitely get the eye-rolls Blueberry’s human mentions, but they just keep on rolling…right off of me! I couldn’t care less what people think. Since I don’t have kids (and no, I would never call my dogs my “fur-kids”. I do not see them that way!), my discretionary spending goes toward the dog. I’m having fun, the dog is having fun. It’s all good!

  9. I get told that all the time, but I don’t really care. Some folks just don’t get it. Maybe it is selfish, but I like it when my dog is happy. They make me happy by doing nothing, so if I can make them happy by doing a little something…I’ll do it.

  10. Talk about an expression that’s overused in reference to pets! You’re right – it’s not spoiling. Heck, anything that involves giving your pet some of your time and attention is a positive thing. Unless it involves a cat. Then they might be happier left alone. But dogs? Impossible to “spoil”!

  11. My dogs are SOOO spoiled. They completely dictate my schedule, use up a large portion of my paycheck, are constantly told how cute, funny, gorgeous they are, and eat healthy food. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  12. I wasn’t accused of spoiling my dogs but I was told many times that people wanted to be my dog. Do I spoil them? Hell yeah! I spoil THEM. With things they can appreciate – walks, outings, good food …

  13. Personally, I think all dogs ..and by natural extent ion, all animals….could and should be treated a lot better than they are. I agree totally with everything you wrote. I think people say we spoil our dogs because they don’t want animals to be treated or taken as seriously as people…good god, we may have to stop hitting them over the head and eating them then!

    As for our own wieners, everyone tells me they want to come back in their next life as one of them!

  14. Wow, another amazing post. Sometimes I forget how amazing you are. A completely none judgmental post about judging!! I think you are bang on yet again.

  15. I’ve had people look sideways at me when I would say PLEASE or THANK YOU to Lilly, like being polite to your dog was weird.

    • Amazingly, I’ve found the best cue for asking Honey to move out of the way is to say “excuse me.” And of course we always say please or thank you around the house.

      I guess those people wouldn’t understand the deep love you and Lilly had for each other either.

  16. You know, I’ve never once read your blog and thought that Honey was spoiled. All in the eye of the observer I guess. I agree, none of those things constitute spoiled, even dressing up the dogs (which I don’t “get” either, but hey, to each their own).

    • Yeah, you’re not fooling us, Donna. I bet you’d just love to dress up Toby, Leah, and Meadow but you don’t have room in your house for another dresser just for dog clothes. :)

  17. I like what you said about how spoiling our dogs is really just spoiling ourselves, so long as we are not making our dogs uncomfortable. When people tell me I spoil my dogs, I just shrug my shoulders and say, “It makes us happy,” or “They’re good dogs and deserve the best.”

  18. Good post! I’ve had people say Kirby is spoiled but always in a nice way. People just fall in love with him and then want to spoil him too. Some are amazed at how well behaved he is – its called training! He needs good food, safety measures, and exercise so he’ll be around a long time. About those clothes… he wants them in the winter cos he gets cold. The rest of the time he allows it for pictures so truth is he “spoils” me right back.

  19. I love it when people say that we spoil our dogs; it means that they are loved and are for in our home. I’m surrounded by dog lovers so these things are shared with me with love. I’m sure that there are people who disagree with the choices we’ve made for our dogs, but I don’t hear from them.