Recently i was doing my weekly groceries, and i was first amused but then concerned by the new packaging on a popular supermarket dog food. They now advertise in large print sentiments like “My Baby” and “My Shadow”. While i’m sure the marketing division means no harm, i’m worried by the underlying attitude that is being fed by such advertising.
I’ll start by being upfront in admitting that i utterly 100% adore my own dog. I often call him my “baby” and i refer to myself as “Mummy”. I hug him and kiss him all the time, and he loves the social attention. But i also exercise him, provide him with as much enrichment as i am able to, and i train him to succeed in our home. He might be my “baby”, but he is also a dog and he is treated in such a way that allows him to be the best dog he can be.
So why am i so worried about these dog food labels?
Too many dogs that i visit are suffering from very real behavioural problems that stem from them being treated like a human baby. They receive all the cuddling and love in the world, but no training or mental stimulation that is appropriate and necessary for a dog to have. They eat human food, and they follow their owners everywhere (even to the bathroom). It is in our nature as humans to love this sort of attachment to another living creature, but then we wonder why our dogs are behaving in ways we don’t like. They could be fearful of anyone new to the home, fearful of other dogs, terrified of being left home alone, and otherwise incapable of coping in our world.
My fear is that labeling popular brands of dog food in such a way is both supporting owners who treat their pets in such a manner, but also encouraging it. Wouldn’t it be great if the influential companies in the pet industry were instead promoting responsible dog ownership, nutritious feeding options, dog-friendly training options, etc. We need to help people learn how to raise their dog to be the best dog they can be, not a substitute child who will never quite cope. Prevention goes miles to avoiding common behavioural problems, and we want to help people to learn to train smart so they can love their pet – not just as their “baby”, but because they are an awesome dog!