By Thursday, July 2, 2020 20 No tags Permalink

Riddle me this: are you a pet owner or pet parent?

I ask this question not to anger, insult OR upset anyone. How you choose to identify and/or associate yourself with your pet is of course a pawsonal choice.

I’m curious because of something I recently experienced the other day. 

A very friendly couple walking past our house complimented me on how well the Boys remain on our porch without a leash…

Are you their owner?

Believe it or not, at first I blurted out – 


Then I said – 


Rightfully so, they stared at me like I was either crazy or I’d started “wine-time” early that day!

This created a much longer (then needed) convo as to why I initially couldn’t answer their question with any degree of certainty.


Do I gravitate towards “pet parent” because it sounds more affectionate and personal? 

Or is it because my feelings towards them and the role I play in their lives mirrors more like the parent category vs. ownership?

PIease know, I would never look at nor compare the Boys to my birth children…

CIRCA 1979 🙂

HOWEVER – I also don’t view the Boys as possessions resulting from ownership.

The definition of a pet parent is – 

  • a person who looks after a pet animal.

The definition of a pet owner is – 

  • a person who owns a pet.

WHO AM I? – 

So, if I see myself as a pet parent, who am I to Harley & Jaxson?…

Do they see me as their parent?

Immediately after I read this question, my immediate response was “no.”

And I was wrong!

According to researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria – to some extent the answer is “yes!”

They used a theory called “secure base effect.”

Secure base effect is the theory that children use their parents as a secure base when they are interacting with their environments.

Do Dogs Think We’re Their Parents?

The discovery is fascinating as they examined behavior in three different scenarios – 

  • absent owner
  • silent by present owner
  • encouraging owner.


There are some expectations to parenting. When blessed with the opportunity, we are asked to – 

  • provide an environment that is safe
  • make sure they have all their basic needs
  • teach them
  • provide discipline
  • develop mutual respect

I love the last bullet – develop mutual respect – we nailed that one. Jax doesn’t lick me and I don’t lick him…


I would love to know how you see yourself in your pet’s life. Are you a pet owner or pet parent? Is he/she “just a dog” or is your relationship much much more?

As I stood on a neighbors porch yesterday engaged in idle chit-chat waiting for the rain to subside, I saw this…

Another neighbor – caught in the rain – was carrying his dog home. This Princess Beagle doesn’t like it when her paws get wet. I smiled as I thought – 

Apparently I am not alone…

Be the reason someone smiles today ❤️

  • Tails Around the Ranch
    July 2, 2020

    Like you, I’m a pet ‘pawrent.’ The dogs own me! Hope you and yours have a happy 4th of July ‘howliday.’

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 6, 2020

      I believe you’ve hit on something there – I feel “owned” as well. HA! Our 4th was relatively uneventful – how about you?

  • Dashlilly
    July 2, 2020

    Awesome post. I do call myself “momma” when I talk with the doodles here at home. “let momma sit there”. “momma is going to store back soon”. But with people I don’t think I have ever said I am their parent. I have to watch now and see what I say. Hope all is well!!

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 6, 2020

      Yep, I didn’t think much of it until I heard myself refer to myself. Let me know what you say whenever you’re asked.

  • Richmond Henriques
    July 2, 2020

    Wonderful as always.

    My wife is dying of brain cancer.
    Both my Doodles sleep, alternating, with her during the day and at night!


    • Cathy Bennett
      July 6, 2020

      Hello Richmond – How are you doing? I know your Dood’s are keeping watch over your wife. I have no doubt they are providing enormous comfort to her right now. Stay well and thanks so much for stopping by.

  • Ducky's Mom
    July 2, 2020

    Like you and Monika, I am a pet “pawrent”. All of my dogs have owned me – and always will – and I call myself their Mom, Mama, or Mommy. I was brought up to treat our family dogs as family rather than “just dogs”, so that’s the way I see them. And I take my guardianship duties very seriously, as you know. It just wasn’t in my cards to be a biological mom, so my dogs are my “canine children”. They are respected as the dogs that they are; but my values insist that they be cared and provided for and loved as much as any other being who’s dependent on me.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 6, 2020

      You have summed it up beautifully! What a wonderful way to describe what so many (I’m learning) feel towards their family pets. Well stated my friend!

  • Cheryl
    July 2, 2020

    We are definitely grandpawrents! Cody is our daughter’s doodle, however, like actual grandchildren, he comes here to be spoiled rotten! Our granddaughter even accused us once of loving Cody more than her!(some days, Cody doesn’t sass!)
    We also have re-established our relationship with our former vet. I wanted someone who knew Cody if he needed to see a vet. He’s seen Dr. Ben 3 times, nothing serious, but nice to know I have a vet I can count on!
    Enjoy your weekend!
    Happy 4th of July!

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 6, 2020

      That’s an excellent move – establishing a relationship with a vet you can trust while you have Cody with you from time to time. I laughed about your granddaughter’s comment. My grown son threw a it when he received our Christmas card one year and not only were the Boys on the cover, but they were part of the signature salutation! He doesn’t even live with us and wanted to know why he and his sister weren’t mentioned. I told him to send out his own cards!!!! We laughed at him for days….

  • Madison
    July 3, 2020

    For years around here, most vet clinics ask if your pet is a pet or a family member which is similar to a pet owner or pet parent question. Mom is definitely a pet parent. We are not something she owns. We live together as a family and she cares for us, teaches us, plays with us and makes sure we have everything we need for a good life. We respect her, take care of her, and love being with her. If she was our owner, she would feed us and lots of the other amazing stuff would not happen. There is nothing wrong with a pet owner, farmers own their animals, but it is a different relationship. Good question.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 6, 2020

      Wow! I’ve never had a vet ask me that question Madison. That’s quite interesting.

  • Pamela
    July 3, 2020

    I love this question. And I love hearing about it from people who parent human children. I think it’s neat that you can see your relationship with Jax and Harley being parental even though it’s different from your relationships with your son and daughter.

    I am definitely not Honey’s owner. But I don’t have happy associations with parenting. So that’s not a good fit for me either. I say that I’m Honey’s person. And Honey is my dog. We belong to each other.

    I can’t imagine being without her (although I expect it will happen someday). And from the way she acts, I believe feels the same way.

    I guess that makes me her “secure base.” 🙂

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 6, 2020

      You absolutely got it Pam! Someone else called themselves their dogs “human” and I liked that phrase as well. There’s an emotional ownership connection in each scenario but regardless to one’s human parenting experiences – I believe you “parent” someone or some animal you decided to nature and care for. And yes – you most definitely are Honey’s “secure base” (ssh, don’t tell Mike!) I miss you my friend. Stay well.

  • Patricia Broccoli
    July 3, 2020

    Great topic. We do refer Baxter as our “son”. We know he depends on us just as our girls depended on us when they were growing up and still do but for reassurance when there is doubt and for advise when needed. Both our dogs would look at us for direction, praise and of course their physical needs. They depend on us to keep them safe and love us unconditionally.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 6, 2020

      I totally agree with you Patricia. I feel the same way about my Boys. They look to us for all their needs, protection, love and affection.

  • Jan K
    July 4, 2020

    This was so interesting! I am definitely a pet parent, though I think that kind of evolved as I had more pets? I think in the beginning I called myself their owner.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 6, 2020

      I found it interesting also Jan. I sounded crazy when I responded to the couple who walked by. This is what prompted the post. So often I hear people discussing their relationships with their pets in so many different ways. I was curious to hear more!

  • Dennis Yannakos
    July 28, 2020

    Well said. I think that I partially understand your feelings!

    • Cathy Bennett
      January 26, 2021

      Hello Dennis – thanks so much for reading.