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