Too Much Love…Hurts

Showing affection in the same way we do with a human can be harmful to our canine pals.

“While it is normal to love a dog so much that they are treated as a family member, it is also possible that showering a dog with constant love and affection can actually result in them feeling smothered”.

“A lack of training and boundaries is a direct cause of some behavioural disorders and sadly some dogs end up in rescue centres or are euthanised because owners failed them from the beginning, albeit unintentionally.”

As a dog trainer I see many dog owners treating canine companions as if they were human beings. When this happens, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s only a matter of time before a dog trainer ends up being called to help with the many behavioural problems that will ensue.

While it is normal to love a dog so much that they are treated as a family member, it is also possible that showering a dog with constant love and affection can actually result in them feeling smothered.

Owners sometimes forget that dogs are animals and while the dogs themselves become a family member because we love them so much, they’re still animals who can’t say when they’re afraid or angry unless you are good at reading your dog’s body language. If you’re unsure whether or not your dog is appreciating all of the ways you show them love, check their body language.  Body language that indicates your dog is unhappy include whale eyes where you can see the whites of their eyes, still tense muscles, growling, or snapping, licking their lips, avoidance like turning their head away. If you do not take note of your dog’s body language the next step could be a bite.  

Do you understand your dog’s language?

One of the main problems is when owners get a new puppy. The family is so overwhelmed with the cuteness of their new friend that training goes straight out the window. This is when things can seriously backfire. Owners must try to remember that when they get a puppy or a dog, you must try not to humanise or treat them like babies. So, here are some examples of what some owners do when they bring their new puppy or dog home.

Giving a puppy or dog too much freedom too soon without any boundaries and training, sleeping on the bed or settee, overindulging, and rewarding them at the wrong times, not crate training their puppy because they think it’s cruel, just letting the puppy have free run of the house without training or boundaries in place, these are all a recipe for disaster for the future wellbeing of the puppy. A lack of training and boundaries is a direct cause of some behavioural disorders and sadly some dogs end up in rescue centres or euthanised because owners have failed them from the beginning, albeit unintentionally.  

As a dog trainer, I am not claiming that we can’t have our dogs on our beds or settees, but owners need to build on the foundations training wise and have boundaries in place, so that dogs are more mentally balanced, and they will have earned these luxuries in your home. Your dog will be much happier, and so will you because there is nothing better than having a well-trained dog that you can take anywhere and everywhere.

So, let’s have a look at some examples of what some owners do with food.

Diet is another way some owners will humanise their dogs. It may seem cute to order your dog human food in a cafeteria or give him/her a treat at the coffee shop, but you might be killing your dog with kindness. Allowing your dog to devour scraps from the dinner table, for example, then complaining they’re always around the table when you’re eating your dinner results from what the dog has been taught! Human foods add calories preservatives, fat, starch, which can lead to obesity and nutritional problems, milk-based products like puppuccino cups from dog-friendly cafeterias can cause upset stomachs and diarrhoea, food allergies, and even behavioural problems. Fat from meat can cause pancreatitis, and sugar can lead to dental issues and diabetes. You may think that giving your dog treats all the time for simply looking cute shows you love them, but it is important to remember that one of the ways we love our dogs is to give them what they need and not what they want. 

Healthy bonding with your pal

So, while they may want those dog treats it is healthier to give your dog what they need by stimulating their brain and making them work a little for it, reward-based training, whether through agility, nose work or enrichment puzzles, which all build a fantastic bond with your dog.

It is easy for dog owners to ignore problematic behaviour from their dog because they are looking at the behaviour as if the dog was a person. A common example is allowing a dog to growl when a spouse is trying to get in the bed or trying to sit on the settee next to their partner or someone in the family. Because the dog is viewed as a little fur baby it is normally laughed off as cute or just being protective because they love you so much, rather than regarding the behaviour as a genuine dangerous issue. The dog is giving clear signals that it is uncomfortable. This is common in lap dogs that are treated like fur babies because owners do not understand or respect what their dog is saying through their body language.


Some owners have a habit of taking their puppy or dog everywhere for the sake of human social events, completely ignoring how the dog is responding to what’s happening by allowing strangers to pet the dog. Perhaps the dog is uncomfortable with this, but you don’t want to be rude to someone? However, this can lead to your dog or puppy being more nervous and result in the animal not feeling safe with you as an owner because you keep letting it happen when your dog is displaying clear signals, they are uncomfortable. Pushing your puppy or dog to interact with others at the park because you think your dog or puppy should get on with every dog and socialise it not the answer. Owners don’t realise forcing social situations on a puppy or dog can cause the animal to become reactive when forced into an uncomfortable situation, your dog may stand up for himself with behaviour that you don’t like.

You may love your dog and want to take them everywhere, we all know that dogs are very loyal companions, but remember some dogs might not always want to be by your side as some may prefer to have a little alone time in a place to relax. Don’t forget that on average dogs also sleep 12- 14 hours a day to reset and it is perfectly normal, and its sleep shouldn’t be disturbed. 

As a dog owner of two beautiful Shih tzu’s called Charlie and Chico I understand how their eyes can melt your heart. My two also have luxuries and I love them dearly, but they are trained and have boundaries as it’s an on-going journey to keep them balanced and happy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving your dog, but if you think you may be overdoing it then you need to change the rules of the game. Remember to show your dog the kind of love that increases the bond between you both instead of overwhelming them with constant attention and affection.

For more information on the work of Justine Shone please visit: JP Holistic Nutrition

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