Do Dogs Think We’re Their Parents?

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It’s no secret that dogs form a formidable bond with their owner and vice versa. After all, dogs are known as a man’s best friend! Dogs are often considered family, and this is even more evident when owners ‘baby’ their dogs or treat them like their own children.

However, you may be wondering if dogs think of their owners or other members of the household as family.

So, do dogs think we’re their parents?

Since dogs are highly emotional and intelligent creatures, they’re usually quick to realize that their human is both their provider and defender, much like a parent. Once a dog develops a bond with their owner, they see them as family. So, yes, a dog could very well consider you as their parent.

While that’s just the short answer, there are plenty of reasons why dogs see their humans as their parents or family. So, here’s everything you need to know about how your dog views you!

Scientific Reasons Why Your Dog May See You As Their Parent

There are several reasons why your dog may see you as their parent. Our history with dogs, in addition to a dog’s socialization and behavior, plays a big role in how your dog views you.

So, let’s explore those things a little deeper!

The History of the Bond Between Dogs And Humans

Dogs are humans’ oldest companions and the bond between humans and dogs dates back around 11,000 years ago, near the end of the last Ice Age. So, it’s not surprising that our history with these incredible animals has influenced our relationships with dogs up until this day.

It’s no secret that dogs are the most popular pets in the United States. Almost 50 million American households have at least one resident dog. But even though dogs had been considered companions for centuries, dogs wore many hats in the early days of America: hunting buddies, protectors, and companions.

Only over the last two centuries was the idea of a dog as a ‘pet’ considered normal, which is early in the grand scheme of both dog and human history. So, because of their domestication and their new status as house pets in so many parts of the world, the bond between humans and dogs is as close as ever, which most likely is one of the reasons that has led dogs to see us as their parents.

In other words, the bond between dogs and humans is very similar to the connection that children form with their parents.

The Secure Base Effect

One of the reasons that your dog may view you as their parent is due to something called the Secure Base Effect. It’s a foundational part of the bond between children and parents – they view their parents as a “secure base” as they grow, learn, and play. Human children know that they’re the safest and most secure with their parents.

So, what does this mean for dogs? In 2013, scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna published a study with their findings regarding the Secure Base Effect applied to the relationship between dog and owner. The results showed that the bond between dogs and their owners closely parallels the bond between parents and their children.

Lisa Horn, the lead researcher, set up three different environments for the dogs to play with interactive toys in order to receive a treat as a reward. These environments were labeled as “absent owner,” “silent owner,” and “encouraging owner.”

Horn found that the dogs that participated in the study were either disinterested or much less enthusiastic when their owners were absent from the experiment. In fact, she found that the dogs were most motivated when their owners were present (i.e., felt more “secure”). Their conclusion was that a dog feels more secure when its owner is around, much like a human child does.

6 Signs Your Dog May See You As Their Parent

Now that we’ve established how science supports the idea that your dog most likely sees you as their parent, let’s discuss how your dog may show it!

1. Your Dog Lights Up When You Get Home

If you’ve ever had a dog, then you know how crazy your dog can get when you come home after a long day. Perhaps they hear the horn when you lock your car and start barking. Maybe they begin jumping on you, wagging their tail, and start sniffing you up and down.

Whatever the case may be, if your dog is excited to see you when you get home, then they definitely see you as family, and maybe even their parent!  Researchers have even found that both dogs and humans experience increased oxytocin levels (the love hormone) upon staring into each other’s eyes.

This little puppy in the video definitely does!

2. Your Dog Always Wants To Be Next To You

If you work from home or are in the middle of doing a Sunday reset around the house, you might find your dog smack dab in the middle of whatever you’re trying to do. Much like children always want to be next to their parents, you may find that your dog has a habit of always wanting to be next to you.

We’ve all been there. Chances are if your dog is constantly making an effort to be next to you, it’s probably because they see you as a parental figure, or family at the very least. Some dogs like to curl up at their owner’s feet while others make a habit of at least being in the same room with their favorite human.

If you find that your dog always wants to be next to you, that’s a telling sign that they see you as their parent!

3. Your Dog Loves To Play With You

Playtime is key to your dog’s happiness and well-being but their enthusiasm when it comes to playing with their owner is a telltale sign that your dog may see you as their parent! Whether it’s tug-of-war, fetch, or hide the treat, if your dog lights up when it comes to playtime, they definitely consider you as family.

Dogs crave playtime because it increases their bond with their owners. It’s one of the main ways they form formidable bonds with their owners. Not only does it provide essential mental and physical stimulation, but it provides emotional stimulation as well.

As we learned with the Secure Base Effect, dogs exhibit more confidence when their owners are present. One of the ways to build this confidence is by playing with your dog!

4. Your Dog Hoards Items That Smell Like You

We’ve all been there. You have ten minutes to get to work and can’t find your left shoe, when all of a sudden, you find it nicely tucked away in your dog’s bed. While this can be mildly frustrating when you’re in a rush, rest assured that the reason your dog is hoarding your items is that they love you!

While your dog might like the smell of your personal belongings, they may also be trying to get your attention. Since dogs possess a remarkably high level of emotional intelligence, it’s no surprise they might be hoarding your things to get you to notice them. Much like a child steals their parent’s belongings, your dog is doing the same thing.

5. Your Dog Gets Jealous

Yes, dogs can get jealous. Jealousy, though primarily considered a human emotion, is very common in dogs. Dogs can exhibit jealousy overtly or covertly. Here are some signs your dog might be jealous:

  • Aggression towards people or other animals they perceive as a threat.
  • Marking territory excessively either indoors or outdoors.
  • Clingy behavior, it may seem like your dog doesn’t want to leave your side.
  • Destructive behavior that results in destroyed items, like shoes or bedding.
  • Lap-guarding is primarily seen in little dogs, but it is a telltale sign of jealousy if there are other people/animals around that might be vying for your attention.

If your dog is exhibiting any of the above behavior when there are other people or animals around, it’s probably because they’re jealous. Jealousy, though considered an emotion with a negative connotation, can be indicative of deep love and care, which means your dog may see you as their parent!

  6. Your Dog Brings You Gifts

If you’ve ever noticed your dog drop their favorite toy at your feet and then walk away, it’s because they’re gifting you the item. Maybe your dog has brought you old food wrappers after they disobeyed you by going through the trash can. Maybe they brought you back your slippers after they miraculously ‘disappeared’ for three days. Whatever the case is, some dogs are gift-givers, which could be a sign that they see you as their parent.

Although we may not understand our dog bringing us a huge stick at the dog park, it would be similar to a child bringing their parent a picture that they drew. If your dog is going out of their way to give you random gifts, then they probably see you as their parent!

How A Dog Might Recognize You As Their Parent

Now that we’ve established all the signs and reasons why your dog might see you as their parent, it’s important to understand the how. Dogs and humans are obviously very different, but we are both emotional and social creatures. Just like we might recognize our mother or father a certain way, there are certain ways your dog might recognize you.

Voice And Sound

Dogs have very fine-tuned hearing. In fact, dogs can hear twice as well as humans. This means that they can recognize voices and sounds much better than we can.

Ever notice how your dog is always right at the door when you come home from work? It’s usually because they’ve memorized the way your car sounds when it pulls up in the driveway or the way you walk up to the front door.

Dogs have 18 muscles in their ears, whereas we only have six. Their impeccable hearing is one of the ways they might be able to recognize you not only as their owner but their parent!

Smell And Scent

It’s no secret that dogs have an incredible sense of smell as well. Dogs use their noses as their main way to learn about their environment, which includes those around them.

This might be why you notice your dog is stealing your slippers or sleeping in your spot on the bed. This is a sign of endearment and a telltale sign that they love you and see you as their parent or at the very least as someone who is really important to them!

What If I’m Not Sure That My Dog Sees Me As Their Parent?

While some dogs may not view their owners as their parents, they most definitely view them as family. If you’re not sure that your dog views you as their parent, you don’t have much to worry about.

We’ll never be able to see the world the way our dogs do, and vice versa. However, what matters most is the bonds we form with them and the memories we make!

Fortify your bond with your pup by engaging in lots of play, exercise, mental stimulation, and cuddles. We all feel very connected to our dogs, and rest assured, they most definitely feel the same way!

Closing Thoughts

All in all, the bonds that we form with dogs are very sacred. As pet parents, we’d like to know that our pups see us at least as their protectors and caretakers. Thanks to the Secure Base Effect, we now know that they may see us as their parents!

Dogs possess remarkable levels of emotional intelligence. At the very least, they’re quick to see us as family. While they’ve been dubbed as man’s best friend for centuries, it might be time to start calling them family!

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