Dogs Bond Like Babies

Dogs bond with their owners in ways similar to children with parents, according to findings from a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE (a more accessible discussion of the study’s findings, pictured below, can be read here). This probably isn’t surprising to most dog owners.

Even as someone who has never owned a dog (I love them; alas, my sinuses do not), I have played the role of dog-sitter to my adorable (if rambunctious) “God Dogger” Brooklyn, and many others, enough to know that canines miss their regular human companions when they’re not around.

dog bond

Findings from the study were reported by Knoxville’s Local 8 news:


Dogs to Babies = Apples to Apples?

Now, dog/baby comparisons are drawn all the time. And the findings described here make perfect sense. What makes less sense to me is when people ask or assume that dog-is-to-childfree-person as baby-is-to-parent. That’s sorta like comparing apples to oranges, IMHO.

While I see similarities between dogs and babies – both provide companionship, both require TLC, both can be expensive, neither seems capable of changing its own diaper, etc. – you’ll never hear me refer to any pets of mine as “fur babies” (and yet I’ll happily use the phrase “God Dogger” – no, the inconsistency of my ways is not lost on me).

To me, there are just far too many differences to think that the comparison is a reasonable one – dogs may go to Puppy Preschool but one never has to worry about scrounging up tuition for a costly college education, and while 5 year old Rover can chillax at the house alone while his owners go out on the town I’ve heard Child Protective Services frowns upon parents who leave their 5 year old humans home alone while they head out boozing, and, finally, dogs generally don’t expect their bums to be wiped after taking a #2 (to name but a few important differences).

Childfree Feedback

Where do you stand on the dog/baby comparison thing? How similar and/or different are they to you? Are your pets “fur babies” or are they simply pets (or perhaps something else entirely)?

5 Responses to Dogs Bond Like Babies

  1. Liz July 12, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    I am a bit of a stereotype that fellow child-free’ers roll their eyes at. I am wealthy, beautiful, young, absolutely fertile with my childbearing hips as I’ve been told, I travel the world in private plane. YET, when I simply state to people (especially women) that I do not plan to have children EVER, they look absolutely horrified and I’m most definitely pitied. And that look gets even worse when I jokingly tell them I’m already a “mommy to my fur baby”. It’s strange how I have the near-perfect life everyone dreams of, but that quickly turns into pity from other people because I’ll never be able to truly enjoy my life without children. Oh puh-lease!
    Of course I know my dog is not a human, but I do spoil her rotten. She has more toys than the average human child. But what’s wrong with that? I’m not hurting anyone, and the dog certainly enjoys it!
    One thing I’d like to add is that having a fur-baby sometimes gets looked down upon by child-free folk, especially on the forums. It’s almost as if I’m not having children, then I should not nurture animals either.

  2. nowlansgirl June 27, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    I love my cat. He is an awesome cat. He is not a person. He is not a child substitute.
    He is the best cat that ever lived, in the history of cats – but he is not a ‘fur-baby’. The phrase alone conjures sad images of animals dressed in sweaters being hauled around in designer purses and having to endure saccharine bouts of baby-talk.
    There seems to be an increasing mythology that if you’re childless, a pet’s role is to act as a second-rate surrogate so that you have somewhere to unleash a pent-up wave of pa(ma)ternalism.
    My cat is old and grumpy and will scratch out your eyes if you call him ‘schnookums’. No…not a fur-baby.

    • Liz July 12, 2013 at 7:32 am #

      Mine doesn’t go shnookems, but most definitely Princess Tinky Winkle Von Cutieville. (Not a joke.)
      What’s wrong with being like this with your pet?? It’s something so trivial to judge on. The child breeders judge the childfree, and the childfree judge the breeders and anyone who displays some kind of nurturing to children and animals.
      Why not just let people live and do what they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone?


  1. 4 Ways the Childfree Create Family: Findings from the Social Science Research - childfree - February 21, 2014

    […] Nurturing others is one way of attaining the emotional intimacy humans need and childfree families engage in nurturing just as those with kids do. In the case of the childfree, such nurturing is often directed at pets. In fact, recent research shows that pets bond with their owners in ways similar to children with their parents (I discussed this work in an earlier post). […]

  2. Living Childfree by Choice Reading List: July 5, 2013 | Childfree Reflections - July 5, 2013

    […] Dogs Bond Like Babies – Some childfree dog owners feel a strong connection to their dogs and a new study suggests that their canine companions bond with them.  Amy Blackstone introduces this study in her blog post and talks about the comparisons people make between having a dog and raising a child.  You can read more about Amy and musing on childfreedom here.  So, do you consider yourself a puppy parent or a privileged dog owner? […]

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