Does My Dog Think I Am A Parent?
The bond between humans and dogs can, at times, seem very similar to that of a child and parent. We feed our pups, bathe them, buy them toys and other tokens of affection. They cuddle with us, put a smile on our faces when we're sad, and sometimes even get into small amounts of trouble. It's no wonder why we love them like family.
However, this isn't to say that they think of us in the same way they do their parents. Dogs have a very specific understanding of relationships and social standings within a pack. They know who their parents or siblings are in canine society, but they don't understand how human families work, nor do they consider us to be their parents.
Anthropomorphizing (associating human characteristics to non-human entities or things) dogs can be problematic. As Daniel explains:
"I don't think dogs rationalize that way, in my opinion. They view us as their pack, as their family, as their leader. As someone who has calm, assertive, dominant energy that they can follow, and feel comfortable, and safe around. But, I don't think that they view us as their actual parents. But, there must be boundaries when you humanize a dog."
Though there is no set point in which dogs view humans as less than their peers, this hierarchy usually develops during the socialization period of a pup's life or throughout that time through sensory recognition. These factors are crucial for understanding how dogs not only perceive their social status and relationships with other dogs and humans but also how they interact with them.
Through the life of a dog, if it is constantly treated as an outsider or lower-ranking member of a pack (the human family), then it will start to accept this subordination as its natural role within the group. This isn't to say that it won't try to challenge or even dominate an individual higher than it in the hierarchy, but for the most part, they will act submissively towards members of the pack.
On the other hand, if your pup is treated as an equal member of a household, it will maintain that mentality into adulthood. It will still see you as the "top dog" in most cases, but it won't be completely subservient and may be more prone to acting out in ways to gain dominance over you.
In essence, you want to train them to maintain their subservient role to avoid problems in obedience training. And, that all comes down to your mindset, as the leader of the pack. As Daniel explains "It's more about how you view your dog as opposed to how they view you."