I’m Not My Dog’s Mom

I’m not my dog’s “mom.”

As we wrapped up Father’s Day last weekend, my husband Matt turned to me and said, “No one wished me happy Father’s Day. And I’ve been a parent to a cat and a dog for five years!”

The thing is, my husband and I don’t consider ourselves “Mom” and “Dad” to Baxter and Ralph. Shortly after we adopted Baxter, I remember a conversation where I said to Matt, “Don’t call me Baxter’s Mom.”

We’re good buds. Ralph is our best girl. Bax is our dude. He and Matt are bros. But they’re not father and son (although Ralph and I are occasionally sisters-in-arms to balance out the testosterone).

I hear a lot of “pet parents”—there’s another label—called Mom and Dad. And that makes complete sense. Our pets are absolutely part of our family. We love them and care for them. Mom and Dad just wasn’t how we chose to identify ourselves. For our dog, we’re called Julia and Matt. As in, “Where’s Matt? Go find Julia!”

I'm not my dog's mom

I don’t feel like eschewing the label of Mom and Dad signifies that we love Baxter any less. I often feel uncomfortable calling myself a dog “owner.” Baxter’s my family. I don’t own family members. And I certainly anthropomorphise my dog. Just not to the point that I consider him my offspring.

Interestingly, we have no problem calling our parents Grandma and Grandpa in relation to Baxter. And they identify themselves that way too. My Mom had a whole conversation last week with Baxter about how he was her favourite grand-dog. (He’s her only grand-dog for now, but I chose not to mention that).

What do you call yourself for your dog? Are you your dog’s Mom or Dad?

We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Julia Thomson is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating. She and her husband live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada.

Baxter and Matt:


24 thoughts on “I’m Not My Dog’s Mom”

    1. We have a 4 year old rescued black lab, that joined our family right as the last of my 4 sons was moving out. I tell them that she is my favorite child. I frequently refer to her as my fur baby. So, I do call myself her mom, when I am busily trying to aggravate my sons. I love her dearly even if I am not really her “mom” It’s really a non-issue for me, and I don’t care if others say it or not. Love my Ziva, and my sons even though they grew up and moved out. (she won’t)

  1. Sandy Weinstein

    i call my 3 gals my children. i love them so much. they are in my will and if they should die b4 me, they are to be buried with me. even my parents called my first gal, their first grandchild and they loved that little gal so much, more than i think they loved their human kids. my dad was even going to sue the vet b/c he screwed up on her spaying, and she was in pain, my dad wanted to sue the vet for causing she to go thru another operation and for all of the pain and suffering he caused. my dad even told his business partners that she was his grandchild. so yes, i do consider my girls my children. i also spend more money on them than most people spend on their kids. i have been told by several people that they want to come back as one of my dogs.

  2. I refused to call my mutt “daughter” for a long time, but now I think it’s the best way to explain our relationship. I feel my heart sinking whenever she’s in pain. I never felt like this before. She actually helped me with my relationship with my mother, because today I can understand her actions much better. So, yes, I’m that person 🙂

  3. I’m used to being called “_______’s mom.” Our doggy daycare uses it, I think our vet techs have, it doesn’t bother me. It’s shorthand; these professionals know and work with my dog, not me, so it’s easier for them. I don’t judge people who do use “mom and dad” to refer to themselves relative to their pets. And I don’t care if someone doing it pisses off a parent of human children. If you have actual human children, you should have more to worry about than “pet parents” or what they call themselves (and if you don’t, then pick a cause and go volunteer or something).

    That being said, I don’t personally use “mom and dad” or “baby” to describe us or our dog or our relationship. She’s my girl, my partner, my friend, my family, my resident class clown or village idiot depending on the day – but she isn’t my child. It’s something more than “just a pet” but doesn’t quite fit with parenthood for me, even though there are parallels (early puppyhood, anyone?) and even though I think it’s just as meaningful in its own way.

    I do think there’s a state of mind that can be kind of damaging to pet ownership that stems from an extreme interpretation of “pet parenting” – people causing problems for other people and other pets by virtue of how they infantilize and anthropomorphize their pets to the point of never setting limits – but my experience is that these people aren’t the norm. Most people I run across who call themselves “pet parents” are just playfully referring to each other as “mom” or “dad” to a well loved animal member of the family.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That’s exactly how I see it too! I don’t use the term “mom” or “dad” but I understand why some do and I think it’s funny when actual parents get offended by it. On the other hand … someone sent me a message yesterday saying she did not approve of That Mutt “shaming” dog moms! I guess someone takes offense no matter what. I thought the point of this post was to show that we all love our dogs as family no matter what words we choose to describe the relationship. People are funny.

      1. Whoops. Shaming was absolutely not my intention at all. Everyone has different relationships with their animals, but I think that no matter what we call ourselves, those relationships are rooted in love and care. I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with criticism on my article.

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          That’s exactly it, we all love and care for our dogs regardless of what we call the relationship.

  4. We do call the girls our “kids” and tell them to go find mom or dad. We also know the difference between a human child (of which we have none) and a pet. They are dogs, and we do not dress them up in “cute” outfits (gag!), carry them in a purse, or push them in a stroller.

  5. Kellie O'Brien

    I do not call myself my dogs’ mom because I am not. Although they are an important part of my family and I love them so very much, I celebrate the species that they are. I am human & they are animals.

    Unfortunately,, in my pet business I see a multitude of behavioral issues in today’s dogs because they are thought of and treated as “my babies!!!”. These owners believe that treating their dogs like children is ok. Yet they whisper ( so their baby won’t hear) that little Bella is a rescue who is very protective of them (even though she weighs 10 lbs), is a picky eater with skin issues and is obese. Meanwhile little Bella is running wild in my store on her flexi-lead and leaving drops of urine down the isle.

    No, I’m not a pet parent. I’m a pet owner. My dogs are fed well, exercised well, trained well and are part of my family. They are animals. i respect them as such.

    1. I think you bring up a great point when you talk about respect. Part of caring for animals is respecting them for what they are. It’s most fair to expect a dog to act and react like a dog, rather than to think and act like a human child. The latter is setting them up to fail.

  6. My other half took a while to come around to the idea that some habits are by their very nature, just what dogs do. Like digging holes in the lawn. She loves to dig and why wouldn’t you try to find that chirping cricket? So I’ve tried to steer that off the lawn and into what was a veggie bed, which for the most part has worked, but I do wish the crickets would move out of the lawn.
    My mum was the first one to tag me as my dog’s mum, by referring to herself as my first dog’s grandma, so I’ve been mum to my pets since I was a teenager and that seems normal to me. I’ve never received a mother’s day card from them though, but I did get a Christmas card one year from the cat.

  7. As you say it just depends on what you choose to call yourself, and what you’re comfortable with. I don’t use the term dog mom myself, but it doesn’t phase me when someone else does. The weird thing for me is that the term owner doesn’t bother me, though intellectually I know it should. I think I’m just so used to it I don’t even notice.

  8. My dogs are my dogs. My buddies, my friends, my partners in crime, my companions. I compete in dog sports with my dogs and we have a special bond through working with each other. I can’t stand when people call me a dog mom because I don’t have that kind of relationship with any of my pets. I love them and spoil them for sure, but my role is not to bring them up to be functioning, decent human beings (like a mom would for her children) my role is to train them to be tame animals functioning in a human society.

    I don’t care if other people call themselves dog mom or dog daddy to be silly, but it’s not for me. I am a bit uncomfortable when people literally treat their dogs like babies though. I feel it shows a lack of respect to what a dog is. They are much more capable, independent, and intelligent than babies…

  9. We have a dog and a cat. The dog is my “baby,” and I refer to myself as his dog mom. The cat, however,I simply refer to by a variety of nicknames, none having to do with me being a cat mom. Let’s be honest – dogs need a parent more than cats do. Not sure if this is why I differentiate, but it’s as good a reason as any. My cat can take care of herself whether I’m gone for a day or a week. The dog? Not so much.

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