Dear Sarah, Feb 17

Hi Sarah,

I love my dog! She lives inside with me, sleeps on the bed with me, gets treats and toys and is pretty much my best friend. I was told by my mother-in-law that I spoil her, that I’m ruining her and that she won’t respect me as “pack leader”. Am I loving her too much?

Rhonda B

Hi Rhonda,

You pose a very interesting question, and it’s one that I get asked a lot. To answer your question, let’s break it down.

1. Let’s define ‘spoiling’. I get a lot of people who say ‘I know I spoil my dog, he gets to come inside’, or ‘my dog is so spoilt, she gets to come up on the lounge’, or ‘I know, I know, I spoil him – I should really treat him like a dog’. At some point along the way, treating a dog kindly somehow became synonymous with ‘spoiling’. I do think, however, there is a difference between a dog being ‘well loved’ and a dog who is ‘indulged’. If you’re not sure of the difference, think about it in terms of raising children – a well loved child is one who is given lots of love, understanding, acceptance, boundaries and consistency. That’s what we are looking to aim for with our dogs.

2. There is research being done to suggest that having a dog sleep with you (at least in the same room as you) is better for bonding and the health and wellbeing of both you and the dog. Nevertheless, whether your dog sleeps on the bed with you (or not), or in the same room as you (or not), or in the house with you (or not), none of these are going to change whether the dog sees you as the ‘leader’, or not. That is developed through consistency, mutual respect, trust and the forming of a great relationship.

3. ‘Pack Leader’ and ‘Dominance’ are outdated terms (see the Australian Veterinary Association website for more details). My advice – go and have fun with your dog. Provide her with consistency, boundaries, love and kindness. And if she’s your best friend – treat her like one!

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