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Fur Kid, Pet, Family Member, Best Friend, Dog
How do you refer to your canine companion?
How do you refer to the dogs in your life?

The way that we refer to our associates says a lot about the relationship. Several decades ago, there was a very awkward period when many couples began to live together without being married, and boyfriend/girlfriend seemed inadequate. Partner and life partner became more common. The very cumbersome term coined by the United States Census Bureau “POSSLQ” (Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters) never achieved widespread use. The change in relationships—serious and not married—gave rise to a number of new ways to refer to each other.

Now, I think we are in the middle of a similar period of trying out terms with our dogs as our view of human-canine relationship changes. We already switched the way we refer to ourselves in relation to our dogs. The antiquated term “master” is (thankfully) hardly ever seen, and owner is also less common. The terms guardian and pet parent seem to be on the rise.

The special canines in our lives have long been called “my dog” or “my best friend” but these are hardly the only options any more. I hear people refer to dogs as their fur kids, their four-legged kids, or just as their family members.

Personally, I lean towards saying “my dog” because I like the benefit of the simple description without the opportunity for unwanted connotation. To me, it seems that there is great love and respect in the term “dog,” as it is one of my very favorite species. I understand why many people prefer terms that more directly take note of the familial relationship, and I think there is great value in that. I also realize that many people consider the possessive “my” problematic with dogs as it suggests ownership, but I also say, “my sons” and “my husband” without suggesting that I own them.

How do you refer to the dogs in your life, and why? Has your terminology changed over time?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

photo by David Amsler/Flickr

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