I don't have a dog and I don't plan to get one any time soon, if ever. I take care of too many dependent, puppy-like creatures — my two children — to think about throwing another into the mix. But I love dogs. When I see one I turn into a squealing toddler. When I see two or more I basically black out due to happiness. I envy all you dog moms and moms who have dogs, so today I'm living vicariously through you to talk about signs your dog thinks you're a great mom.
My friend, K, got a puppy last year. That puppy — whom I shall call "Pamplemousse" because that's what I would name a dog if I had one and I'm all about my vicarious dog love — is now a grown-up lady dog. Of course K will often remind me she's "in her teenage years," because K has to deal with all the Pamplemousse's sauciness and I just get to go over and be the cool dog-aunt, but as the cool dog-aunt who doesn't have to discipline, feed, or clean up after said dog, I've watched their relationship develop over the past year. While it has affirmed my commitment to a dog-free home (it's so much work) it has also made me long for a dog in a way that didn't exist before. Because seeing a mom become a dog mom (or a dog mom becoming a regular-type mom) makes it clear just how much dogs really and truly connect with us in a way that can't be compared to any other relationship (except for that of parent and child.)
Dogs recognize our maternity, too, I'm convinced, both as their surrogate parent and in our true role as parents to small humans. These are just some of the ways they let you know they appreciate you on every possible "mom" level:
They're Always Underfoot
Like their human companions, dogs are naturally social creatures. Like some humans, dogs follow a hierarchy in the wild and deference to their designated "pack leader." Following you around is a version of that behavior. They see you as the alpha and they want to bask in your indispensable and appreciated leadership.
Dog Spit Is Just One More Fluid You Deal With
Dogs lick faces for a bunch of reasons, it seems. Baby wolves lick their mamas' faces to signify hunger and, as they get older, to show submission to another wolf. But domestic dogs lick their human mamas' faces to show affection. Sure, part of it might just be some of that old wolf reflex showing itself, and maybe they like the taste of your salty skin, but probably they just want you to know that you're rocking motherhood and are a good person with a lovely face.
They Help You With Your Human Babies
They want to impress and please you by playing a role in the care of your squishy, somehow furless puppy/puppies. They see how much what your little human means to you, and how hard you're working for it, so they're going to follow suit. Generally, they will begin to love them on their own merits. Of course that's when you have to worry about both the baby and the dog having an accomplice and you're going to have to up the mom game... because there will be hijinks.
You Occasionally Give Your Child A "Spit-Bath"
Let the mom among us who has not licked her thumb to and rubbed it on her child's face to get schmutz off throw the first stone... which her dog will inevitably chase and bring back to her because a dog doesn't care WTF you throw: they're going to chase it.
Anyway, while the fancy judgmental moms (who I also suspect are hypocrites because we all do it) scoff at you spit-bathing your child, your dog sees this behavior and thinks, "OMG, humans! They're just like us! What a good mom Mom is!" because licking their babies clean is one of the first things a good mama dog does. Experts believe this is not only to get the goop off but to encourage breathing in newborn pups. So, by dog standards, that you do this is amazing.
They Give You Extra Love When You Need It
Dogs do seem to instinctively know (in spite of being dumb dogs) when you're feeling down or sick and need some extra love. And despite not being smarter than people, dogs are often more willing to cuddle you than most humans, because dogs are sweet and usually pretty good. Dogs won't necessarily do this for just anyone, but they will do it for an awesome human mom.
They Pee In Your Presence
Believe it or not, this can be a sign of respect, especially from a puppy. Now, I'm on the record as not actually being a dog, so I don't know what it is about pee that makes dogs think, "OMG, mom is going to love this! She deserves my pee! She's such a good mom!" but there is something, deep inside their weird puppy brains, that does make them think that.
You Discipline Your Kids
Dogs can be firm disciplinarians. Sometimes, in fact, a mommy dog appropriately disciplining her puppy can look scary. But growling or a muzzle-gasp, which is like a mama dog's way of saying, "Oh, you think you grown?", are common and normal. So when your dog sees you "growl" at your pups or do that silent "arm squeeze and stare," they're like, "That is a pack leader and she's taking care of her business."
They Jump On You
It's annoying AF, but it's them just loving you so much, mom! Let me give you all my energy and kisses! Please love me as I love you! I need pets! All the pets!
They Make Eye-Contact
Just as childbirth, breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact, and generally just cuddling your baby boosts oxytocin, scientists have discovered that gazing into your dogs eyes does the same! While humans seem to get more out of it than the dogs (about 170 percent more, to be precise) that doesn't change the fact that your stare affair with your dog is a good indication that they think you're just the bee's knees.
They Make It Clear They Think They Are Your Baby
Be honest: you're probably not doing all that much to dissuade them of that notion, are you?
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.