Spoiled but not Spoiled Rotten

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Do people tell you your dogs are spoiled? I hear it so much that I’ve actually told people my dogs are spoiled. But I think the word ‘spoiled’ when referring to our pets can have two different meanings. The Google definition is to “harm the character of (a child) by being too lenient or indulgent.” I imagine that this is what some people mean when they tell me I spoil my dogs. But when I say it, I simply mean to care for in a generous way. And I think this less harsh (albeit incorrect) definition of spoiled is what most people mean. Here’s why.

By the standards of many non-dog-lovers, it can certainly seem that I go overboard with all the things I do for my dogs. Maya and Pierson have lots of dog toys, nice plush beds, get quality food. They get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation with learning tricks. And I buy lots of dog products to promote their health and safety.

Dogs Maya & Pierson on Pet Dek in Car

This kind of treatment is easily perceived as spoiling by those who only get their dogs the basic supplies. But I am not lenient or indulgent with Maya and Pierson.

Spoiling My Dogs with Food?
For one, my dogs are not overfed. They have set meal times and are only fed a certain amount. They get treats ever so often, but I don’t overdo it. Sometimes I give treats to be indulgent. But most other times, Maya and Pierson get treats when we do fun training time.

Spoiling My Dogs by Training Them?
That’s right, I train them. It can’t be called spoiling by the true definition if I’ve taken the time to train my dogs manners. Maya and Pierson don’t get to run amuck. They are not allowed in certain rooms. They sit and stay in certain situations. And they come when called.

I can be lenient (or lazy) when it comes to certain training aspects. I am terrible about being consistent with leash walking habits. While I do cross the street when we see another dog in order to help with Maya and Pierson’s leash reactive behaviors, I do not make it a point to specifically train for modifying leash behaviors on a daily or even weekly basis. Because I still try to be responsible about their behaviors, I do not see this leniency as spoiling my dogs.

Maya and Pierson Cuddle on Couch 2

Allowing Dogs on the Furniture?
Some people believe that allowing your dogs on the furniture is spoiling them. They say this could lead to certain behavior issues. I’m not going to dispute that here. While Maya and Pierson are not generally allowed on the furniture (a personal preference), I’ve allowed it in the past and on some special occasions. And it certainly hasn’t harmed their character.

Spoiling with Love?
Perhaps allowing my dogs to live in the house where I can pet them every five minutes if I want can seem indulgent. Maybe it is, in a way. But this action does not harm their character. It is actually a benefit for both of us. They get to relax. I get to relax.

Maya Getting Nails Cut

Cutting doggy toenails.

Spoiling with Care?
While I do spend a lot of quality enjoyment time with my dogs, I also do things to them that they do not enjoy. Things like brush their teeth, cut their nails, and comb their hair. Is this spoiling? I think not.

Dog Toys All Over the Floor 001

Spoiling with Lots of Dog Toys?
When I buy Maya and Pierson a bunch of toys it can be perceived as spoiling. I beg to differ, though. Having toys to stimulate the mind and to get exercise is not going to harm their character. It’s going to help it.

Spoiling with Dog Clothes?
If your dog wears cute clothes, people will probably stop and tell your dog in a cooing voice that he’s spoiled. But they certainly couldn’t mean spoiling as in harming their character because how can dog clothes harm their character? Dogs don’t get the uppity attitude that some people can get regarding attire. They don’t think, “OMD, that dog looks like she’s wearing a hand-me-down. What a loser.” Right?

Buying the Best for My Dogs?
Spending money on quality dog food, safety gear, and veterinary care can be seen as spoiling a dog by people who do not do these things for their own pet. But it’s not spoiling them if these things are beneficial.

So if someone tells me I spoil my dogs and they mean I spend a lot of money on them, then yes, I do spoil my dogs. But if someone tells me this and they mean I overdo it to the point of harming my dogs’ characters, then I completely disagree. Maya and Pierson have their faults (who doesn’t). But overall they are very good dogs. Pampered, yes. Spoiled, perhaps by my less harsh definition. Spoiled rotten, no way!

What do you think most people mean whey they say your dog is spoiled?

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17 Responses to “Spoiled but not Spoiled Rotten”

  1. 25castleson25clouds Says:

    I treat my dog the same as I do myself (although i know my dog is not a human and is not treated as such!) What I mean is a little treat occasionally is not a bad thing, so long as it is in moderation. However many of the things you have mentioned above is about personal preference of how you want to do things and some of it is just good ownership!

  2. raisingdaisy Says:

    I agree with you that most non-dog-owning people mean it in a derogatory way, and I also heartily agree with your definition and explanations. I hear it a lot from the oldest generation especially, but again, mostly non-dog owners. I hear them say how healthy dog food is just a money-making scheme, and how when they were kids (that’s the point where I start cringing), their dogs ate what they could find in the street or whatever they could afford to feed them and “they were fine”. Well, of course, times were VERY different then, and they didn’t really pay enough attention to know if the dog was truly fine. I also think part of that stems from the fact that in old black and white movies, you see a lot of over-coddling of small dogs by super-rich women who ignore the plight of the middle and lower income levels, and it’s deliberately exaggerated. There’s a mindset instilled in them that “a dog is a dog, not a person”. Oh well, we’re doing what we believe is right, and our healthy, happy dogs are pretty good proof of that!

  3. The Golden Life Says:

    Dawn, you have stated quite eloquently my exact feelings about spoiled vs spoiled rotten. Thank you! Just one more thought: if you can’t spoil your dogs, who CAN you spoil?! The dogs, at least are ALWAYS grateful for ALL we do for them. That certainly cannot be said for a great number of humans who have been “spoiled” their entire lives!

  4. Will and Eko Says:

    Awesome post – couldn’t agree more with how you’ve articulated the different kinds of “spoiled.” Tongue-in-cheek, I call my pups spoiled all the time. They are well-loved and well cared for, but not overfed, over indulged or given no discipline.

  5. Ann "Paws" Staub Says:

    Hmmm never really thought about the definition of spoiled before… I’d say that I also think of it as being generous. My mom bought Shiner a dog bowl that says “spoiled rotten” on it :) I don’t think she’s THAT spoiled, but maybe only a wee bit hehe.

  6. rubytheairedale Says:

    Okays, so Ma spoils me..SO!! I don’t care what peeps say, nor does Ma. I have to say, that I really don’t care what non-doggie peeps say…they don’t get it anyhu!
    I mean, I don’t thinks it’s every doggie that has their own bubble machine!!! ☺
    Kisses,
    Ruby ♥

  7. Susan C. Willett Says:

    I spoil my dogs and my cats, by giving them the very best I can–including attention and training. They are just as much a part of my family as the humans are.

    Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

  8. somethingwagging Says:

    I am standing on my chair, clapping and hollering. Keep preaching!

    In fact, you and I are twin daughters of different mothers on this topic: http://www.somethingwagging.com/what-do-you-mean-i-spoil-my-dog/

  9. Cello's Corner Says:

    Cello is definitely pampered and spoiled – and totally deserves it ;) …great post!

  10. 2 Brown Dawgs Says:

    That is a good question. We normally don’t hear that the dogs are spoiled, but we do get asked: “Can’t they just be dogs?” I guess that means we do too many activities with them.

    • Nature by Dawn Says:

      I never would have considered your dogs to get too much activity. In fact, I’m a bit envious that you do so much with yours. They are getting to do what they love. Not only that, I can see on your blog that they are also a part of your family and do get to be just dogs.

  11. Lindsay Says:

    Maya and Pierson are very, very loved!

    My pets are spoiled in a lot of ways, at least according to some people’s standards. I take them along on a lot of my trips and vacations. They hardly ever stay home alone for more than a few hours. I dote on them many times per day and give them lots of attention. They also have pet beds in almost every room.

    The one thing I don’t really do is buy them treats or toys, but we get so many free goodies sent to us from blogging that we have plenty!

  12. Clowie Says:

    I think I’m spoiled in the same way as Maya and Pierson, but I definitely have to obey the rules and behave.

  13. weliveinaflat Says:

    LOL how can they be spoiled?

  14. Jodi Says:

    I agree with you! I think most people probably mean over indulging, I call it loving. ;-)

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