8 Things to Never Say to a Dog Owner

If you are a dog parent, you’ve probably had a couple comments directed at you that raised your hackles. There are some “sentiments” that are akin to the tone-deaf singers on shows like American Idol or The Voice — they should not be heard.

No matter how well-intentioned some things might sound internally, there are some comments I’d rather not have tossed my way.†If you don’t have dogs — or even if you do — take my advice and don’t say these things to any dog parent you know.†Take a peek at this list and see how many touch a nerve. Better yet: How many of these have you been told?

1. “I bet you don’t have any kids.”

Many of my friends have human kids and they also have dogs, and both varieties are considered a part of the family. I made a conscious choice not to have human children, but I’ve always had a strong affection for dogs. It doesn’t make me any less of a human being to not want human children, but it really sucks when people assume that millions of us love dogs so much because we lack babies.

More from Dogster Magazine: Dogs are the New Kids

2. “When he dies, will you get another one” or, “Your dog died? Well, then get another one.”

We don’t replace a family member by simply accessing someone who happens to look like Grandma or Mom or Aunt Susie. The same holds true for dog parents: We don’t replace Ginger with Misty. For some of us, life without the pitter-patter of dog feet is simply not an option. I never thought I would want to commit to another dog after my first Cocker, Brandy Noel, died, but here I sit, with a snoring dog at my feet. He is my “never again,” yet this decision was mine and mine alone. It hurts deeply to hear things like “get another one,” as if I just lost an eyeglass case. Some things are irreplaceable, and dogs are high atop that list for me and millions of other dog lovers worldwide.

3. “I’ve heard that breed is mean.”

Michael Vick is mean. Puppy mill owners are mean. Dogs who are trained to fight because they are beaten or taught to attack are mean because of people. Punish the deed, not the breed, as the adage goes. About 95 percent of the folks I meet when I’m out with my Cocker Spaniel smile, wave, ask to pet him, or simply want to know more. There is a small but annoying five percent who remind me they were bitten by a Cocker Spaniel or a Cocker Spaniel once snapped at them. It always seemed to have happened when they were a kid. How many Pit Bull parents or Rottweiler moms and dads are completely fed up with hearing their breed is mean? Even if you think it, don’t say it at random when I am perusing the toy aisle at the pet supply store.

4. “Yuck, you let your dog kiss you on the face or mouth?”

With my eyes closed and my lips puckered, you bet your wigglebutt my dog smooches me on the mouth. It gets better: Sometimes he licks my ice cream cone and eats off my fork, too! I know all about germs and bacteria and cross contamination and zoonotic diseases, oh my! For those of us out in public who let our dogs lick our faces, we simply have no need for snide comments. If you don’t allow your dog to lick your face, more power to you: Just don’t begrudge me poochie smooches.

More from Dogster Magazine: What to Say When People Insult Your Dog

5. “I’d never spend that much on a dog, I’d sooner put him down.”

This is one of the cruelest comments I ever had the misfortunate of hearing. To date, this has not been said to me, hopefully because my “don’t go there” aura shines brightly. A dog is a living, breathing being, and where someone spends their money is none of someone else’s business. I’d sooner live in a cardboard box than not spend money on my dog’s health and well-being. From grooming costs to cancer treatment and everything in between: When a good dog parent says “I do” to a pooch, it should be for keeps. Telling me to put a dog down in the name of cost savings is grounds for dismissal from my life, and I know I am not alone in feeling this way.

6. ďDo you think youíre single because you dote so much on your dog?Ē

I am not single, but my single friends tell me theyíve heard this on more than one occasion. Seriously, who says this and thinks itís a good thing? Not only is it hurtful, but it’s disrespectful and just plain not nice. Iíd rather be single and happy with my dog than stuck with someone who thinks doting on a dog is in some way not the norm.

7. “Spank that dog; he’ll never learn to not _____ [fill in the blank] otherwise.”

Putting your hands on a dog as a form of punishment is not only wrong but harmful to the relationship you want with your dog — it’s counterproductive, in fact. No matter how upset you are or what the dog did to frustrate you, hitting/spanking/slapping a dog is never appropriate. Hitting a dog to teach him not to growl at a child, not to chew a shoe, not to bark, or because you are frustrated is harmful and just plain mean. If you tell me this to my face, I will respond in kind and tell you to your face how wrong you are. Don’t say this and most importantly, do not do this. Seek the assistance of a behaviorist if you need help with pet parenting. If you feel hitting is appropriate, don’t get a dog, get a punching bag and some counseling.

More from Dogster Magazine: Five Things Your Vet Should Never Say to You

8. ďYou can come but donít bring the dog.Ē

This one might rub a few folks the wrong way, but many of us just donít travel without our dogs unless absolutely necessary. In fact, I can count the times on a little over one hand that Iíve taken a trip without a dog in the past 20 years. I am happier, healthier, and better for having a dog sharing life with me, and that includes road trips, vacations, holidays, and visits with like-minded people. Granted, I know my dog canít come to your wedding or to someoneís funeral, though Iíve seen pooches at both. If you simply do not want my dog at your house because you just arenít all that into dogs, then sorry: Iím just not all that into you.

Photo: Teenage boy sitting with Golden Retriever by Shutterstock

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This post was written by Julia Szabo, regular contributor to Dogster Magazine.


W. C
W. C10 months ago

Thank you.

William C
William C10 months ago


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

And well, this would apply to me and cats (I've never had dogs, but I love them and I dream of adopting one some day!)

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Thank you for this! So agree! Some people are so unconsidered, selfish, or just stupid, really. Sharing everywhere.

Christine Jones
Christine J3 years ago

I agree with Antonia P's comment. As I am an avid dog lover, I've had people think it's ok to make disparaging comments about cats. No it isn't. I love cats too. It's ok to have preferences, or to make a decision that one type of animal fits your lifestyle better than another, but that doesn't automatically mean you don't like the other species. It is a ludicrous notion that love can be confined to one species. If you have a bird, people don't say that you must dislike rabbits. It's just as ridiculous.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Antonia Plick
Antonia Plick5 years ago

I never understood the intensity and uniqueness of the human-canine bond until we had a dog of our own. I agree with most of the points mentioned here, except no.8. I do understand that there are reasons people don't want other people's animals in their homes and I respect that.
Our dog just passed in April from cancer and I am STILL so thrown by the loss that tears sometimes come suddenly and openly. I am almost ashamed to admit this, but other than the loss of our 4-year-old son many years ago, no other loss has affected me as much.
Another concept that bothers me tremendously is that one is either a cat OR a dog person. I love both species, and it's not a matter of degree. They are just DIFFERENT animals and we appreciate each for what it is and how we inter-relate. It's not more or less love, it's just different love. We've had cats all our married life. How this idea that one loves either, but not both, arose is beyond me.
I hope to have another dog in my life soon. Our 2 "girls" need somebody to keep them on their toes. ;-)

Schnee S.
Viky S5 years ago

All these things not only should never be said to a dog owner, but to any human who have animal family members.
As for “Your dog died? Well, then get another one.” --that's the most stupid and cruel, and I've heard it often after my kitty's death. This saddens me so much that people can be so callous.
I've seen myself a family that, after their dog dies, would find another one immediately and name him like the deceased one! So, they had about 5-6 dogs named "Jeannie'...
Some people simply cannot comprehend that animals are living beings and our family members, not pieces of furniture. :(

Yogesh Khandke
Yogesh Khandke5 years ago

kerrie b.: I think your story would fall in the absolutely necessary category. :-)