No, You’re Not a Bad Pet Parent
We’re totally obsessed pet parents—but sometimes we wonder if we’re doing the best we can for our pets. It’s natural to worry, and we’re here to tell you that you’re doing a better job than you think.
When your Instagram feed is full of flawless photos of perfectly groomed cats and videos of dogs who know every trick in the book, it’s easy to feel a little inadequate. Real life isn’t so picture-perfect (and rest assured that even influencer pets have their messy moments too)! We’ve put together a list of some of the most common worries that keep pet owners up at night—and why you can actually rest easy.
My pet doesn’t like to cuddle.
When most people adopt a pet, they’re dreaming of cozy evenings cuddled up on the couch with their new furry friend! But what happens when your pet seems to hate cuddling?
There are many reasons why your pet might not be enthusiastic about cuddles. Sometimes those firm boundaries can be due to body pain or a history of past trauma that makes snuggling feel unpleasant.
It might be that you’re not showing your pet the kind of physical affection they like—for example, did you know that most dogs don’t like hugs? The kind of contact which feels comfortable for us might not feel comfortable for our pets, so watch your dog or cat’s body language to see what feels good to them.
It could also be that a love of cuddling just isn’t part of your pet’s personality! Just like people, pets have unique personalities and preferences, and some have a very clear personal bubble. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed to bond with your pet—it just means there are other ways to show your pet affection that will result in happy purrs or a wagging tail.
I share people food with my pet.
Feeding your pets people food is definitely a little taboo these days, but it feels like we all have an aunt who swore she fed her dog a full plate of spaghetti and meatballs every Sunday night and that’s why he lived to be 24 years old. So what’s the truth when it comes to letting your pet sample human food?
Unsurprisingly, the answer comes down to what you’re feeding them and how much. There are actually plenty of human foods that can be perfectly healthy for your pets! You don’t have to feel guilty about tossing your pooch baby carrots or giving your cat a nibble of tuna. While some human foods are a hard no for pet safety (keep your chocolate and alcohol locked up, people), what about all those tempting foods that aren’t poisonous but aren’t uber-healthy either?
Even though we know bread isn’t great for dogs, we’re no match for the puppy dog eyes that come out when they see an uneaten pizza crust! Just like with any treat, moderation is key. While pizza crust should never be a dietary staple for your pet, a morsel here and there will be a-okay for most pets.
As long as you know what foods are safe and unsafe, portion out treats responsibly, and make sure their normal diet provides proper nutrition, you’re doing a great job taking care of your pet’s health.
My dog doesn’t see me as the alpha.
You’re probably familiar with the canine stereotype that dogs need a strong “alpha” to lead the pack…and if you’re anything like us, you probably read that while cuddled up on the couch with your dog shamelessly using you as a pillow. If you can’t bring yourself to be dominant with your dog, don’t feel bad! The idea that dogs need an alpha pack leader is actually one of the most common dog myths out there.
This idea can trace its roots back to one study on the behavior of captive wolves which was then extrapolated to dogs. There are two problems with that: 1. wolves in captivity act totally differently than wolves do in nature, and 2. dogs aren’t wolves! There is no scientific evidence that dominance training is an effective strategy for human-dog interactions. On the contrary, studies show that dogs who receive dominance training often end up more fearful and more aggressive toward their owner and others.
That’s why we’re such big fans of positive reinforcement training! Focusing on creating positive experiences with your dog helps them to be properly socialized and move through the world with excitement instead of fear. It also helps to build that all-important bond between you and your dog! So go ahead and keep treating your dog like a family member—because they are.
I just can’t train my pet!
Whether you’ve just gotten a kitten who’s raising hell in your household or you’re struggling to teach an old dog new tricks, we feel your pain. Every pet is unique, and everything from reactivity to simple stubbornness can make training challenging!
First things first, make sure your training techniques are working for your pet. Try different positive reinforcement training techniques to find the ones your pet is most responsive to and look for training methods that match your unique pet—like these specialized tips for training older dogs.
Secondly, there’s a reason professional pet trainers exist! Training a pet can be difficult, and there is no shame whatsoever in getting some help from an expert to make you and your pet’s lives easier. Teamwork makes the dream work, people!
Sometimes taking care of my pet feels hard.
Having a pet is great! …Except when it isn’t. The truth is, pet ownership is full of tough moments. When your cat shreds a fourth set of curtains or your dog rolls in something disgusting despite you screaming for them to stop, it feels bad.
You don’t have to feel guilty if your pet sometimes has you wanting to tear your hair out. Being a pet person is messy, smelly, frustrating, totally imperfect, and also great! For every difficult experience, there are dozens of amazing moments with your pet. Pet ownership isn’t always pretty, but it is filled with love and an unbreakable bond with your best friend.
Now that we’ve gotten those common misconceptions out of the way, take a deep breath, pet people—you’re doing just fine. Here’s to more raw, unfiltered, and wonderfully real moments with our pets!