It's only natural to want to spoil your dog. After all, dogs provide immense amounts of affection, comfort and, in some cases, security. The only question is whether your dog will display different behaviors due to your treating him so well, and how those behaviors might evolve into a problem for you and your household. The most important thing to remember is that dogs live in a world of patterns.
Every dog owner likely has a different definition for the word “spoiled.” Some might consider a dog with free run of the furniture spoiled, while others may not have an issue with their dog hanging out on the bed or the couch. Spoiled is normally used with a negative connotation -- a dog that is spoiled would be a dog that receives great amounts of privilege and praise for very little work.
Understanding Breeds and Training
Dogs are bred for specific purposes. Traits like bravery and intelligence are encouraged in working dogs, while lap dogs are bred to be small and passive. Every owner has different expectations for his dog, and these expectations often come from the reputation of the breed. As such, spoiling any given dog depends on his temperament, breed and training expectations. Rewarding a dog is entirely up to the owner.
What Dogs Know
Dogs understand habits and patterns more than anything else. When you grab your keys, it's time to go outside. When you pick up the leash, it's time for a walk. Dogs learn by observing the world around them and interpreting common patterns. Dogs do not necessarily know that they are spoiled, but they do know which behaviors work for earning positive attention, praise and treats.
One of the hardest parts of training a dog is building consistency into the routine. Dogs know who will spoil them and who will not, and are adept at picking up your changes in mood to determine when the best time to beg for a treat might be. Different family members or friends will treat the dog in different ways, and dogs quickly learn who to approach for table scraps and who to lean on for affection.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images