Why Do We Treat Dogs Like Our Children? Because They Are

Do you have your precious pup as your iPhone background? Would you rather spend hours gushing about your dog Gus than delving deep into politics? Are your parties for your pets more extravagant than the Real Housewives’ parties for their children? Turns out you’re not alone.

Kelton Research, a market research company, wanted to scientifically examine why we treat Fido as more than our friend but as a certified member of our family. They surveyed over 1,000 dog owners and found that a whopping 81% of those asked describe their dogs as members of their family, equal in status to biological children. We not only see our dogs as our children, but ourselves as their parents as a majority (54%) of Americans refer to themselves as pet “parents” rather than pet “owners”.


We’ve all heard that we look like our dogs: Females with longer hair prefer dogs with long floppy ears; Obese people are more likely to raise plumper pets than their skinnier contemporaries. It turns out our love of pets is more than skin deep as more than 1/3 of dog owners even refer to their dachshunds as their “son” or “daughter”. Crazily enough, 10% of dog parents even celebrate Father’s and Mother’s Day. Hopefully their “children” will give better presents than the ones they leave on their morning walks.

Ever wonder why your parents have more pictures of their Pomeranian on their mantels than you and your siblings? The average pet parent has over 7 photographs of their beloved canine on display at all times. Remember your parents buying wallet-sized copies of your hideous elementary school pictures? Turns out that 71% of pet owners have at least one picture of their pup that they keep with them at all times.


The love for our dogs transcends our mobile photo albums and infiltrates our daily conversations. Stuck in a disastrous first date with nothing to talk about? Simply gush about your furry child! Over 79% of people divulge that they talk more about their dogs than politics while 55% would rather talk about their pets than their human friends. Furthermore, 48% of people agree that they spend more time talking about their pets than their professions while, surprisingly, 57% of people surveyed confess that they spend more time discussing their pet-lives than their sex-lives.

The lines between our chihuahuas and children are becoming increasingly blurred. According to the survey, 81% of pet owners know and celebrate their dog’s birthday with the same fervor of suburban soccer moms. Surprisingly, 74% of those asked dished that they like to share a meal with their furry friend with dinner being the most popular. No doggy bags needed!


So why have our pets turned us into perfectionist parents? Turns out it may be due to a void left by our own biological children. Young people in the United States and abroad would prefer to have a fur-baby instead of an actual baby due to financial reasons. Young people are not the only ones caught up in dog-fever however as baby boomers are blossoming into empty-nesters. While middle aged couples cannot replace their adult children with more biological ones, they can easily go to their neighborhood adoption center and pick up a pup in need of a family. As humans we have an instinct need to nurture and dogs give us the opportunity to do so without the full responsibility of raising a walking, talking human.

They say that dogs are a man’s best friend. Chances are whoever invented that quote never had a Fido to call their own as we all know, and feel, that dogs are much, much, more than that. They are a member of our family and since they can’t talk back or ask us who we are dating at every Thanksgiving dinner, they are more than likely to be our favorite family member.

Travelling As A Cure For Depression: Should You Ditch Your Prozac for a Passport?

We all know about the fight or flight response: when faced with certain doom or uncertainty our brains go into instinctive mode, giving us only two options. When life smacks us hard in the face we can either smack it back or run to the comfortable lay-z-boy couches of our therapist. But what happens when the “flight” takes on a literal meaning, when people travel thousands of miles to escape the demons in their own heads?


It’s Natural to Think Escaping to Nature Will Solve Everything

In these modern times, with the popularity of Instagram and social media behemoths, once distant places are at the tips of our fingers. You can’t help but to not be jealous when you see post of beautiful beaches or read articles titled “we quit our boring jobs to travel the world!” Psychologists want you to know, however, that the luscious green landscapes featured in Travel + Leisure will not lead you to greener pastures in your own life.

As humans, we tend to blame unwanted situations on external events: I failed my calculus final because I was sick, not because I didn’t study! I am single because all men are afraid of commitment, not because I don’t use mouthwash! The same goes with feelings of depression: we are more likely to think that we are melancholic because we are stuck in a mundane routine of working a 9-5 desk job in a middle-of-nowhere town where the most exciting events consist of corn fairs, not because of a chemical imbalance in our brains.

“The tendency is to attribute the cause of suffering to something outside of yourself: your job, your family, your relationship, and so on,” describes Mary V. Seeman, MDCM, DSc, Professor at the University of Toronto. “So you travel to get away from the supposed causes only to find that the depression is inside.”


Travelling Can Lead You to an Even Greater Breakdown

You need to book a cheap but fast flight ticket, book a hotel close to the city center under $200, research sites to see, things to do, what to eat. Going abroad? You need to learn to say “please” “thank you” and “where is the nearest bathroom” in a new language. Travelling with friends? You need to make sure that Joe and Jane will get along the whole time. Travelling alone? You need to scout out public transportation, cultural differences and where you can drink without looking like a loser.

Travelling brings on all kinds of stress- stress we seem to willfully ignore until we arrive at our destinations. Some like to travel spontaneously, which can rebound when unknown stressors such as flight delays, bad weather and baggage loss rear their ugly heads. Psychologist Joseph Cilona warns his depressed patients that “travel has the potential to make things worse or better for those struggling with depression and [they should] be very conscious of your intentions by planning thoughtfully and thoroughly.”

Don’t forget that even if you travel, it’s not all about getting the perfect shot for your gram. Yes, a picture may say a thousand words, but if in your head your thoughts are a million a minute you can have a serious mental breakdown. Dr. Seeman elaborates stating:

“All the problems of traveling will bother people with depression more than usual: the annoyances, the inconveniences, the lack of sleep, the loss of familiar surroundings, the interruption of routines, the happy faces, and the forced socialization. Jet lag will be worse. Loneliness will be worse. New people will seem more of a drag.”


Don’t Forget That You Always Have to Come Back Home

We travel for one of two reasons: we either are running toward something or running away. More often than not with depression we are running away from our what we think is the root of our sadness missing the forest for the trees. I remember so vividly breaking down in tears before boarding my flight from London to Toronto to go home during my first trip abroad. I had no job, no money and insurmountable student debt. What was left for me at home besides problems and questions I had no answers for?

And I know you’ve been there too. We take relief in setting our phones to airplane mode, not having to heard the incessant dings of work-related emails or obnoxious Facebook posts from our old high school friends. One day we are feeling high, dining on escargot in the middle of Paris, France and the next day were back eating Shake ‘n Bake in Paris, Texas. In fact, traveling for long periods may even make depression worse as Seeman explains: “All of the old demands will return, plus needing to catch up with work left undone. [With] the possibility of jet lag and the realization that the next vacation is very far away, a depressed person will probably feel it all more than a ‘happy’ person.”


Should I Just Forget About My Cousin’s Wedding in Hawaii Then?

While yes, travelling can amplify feelings of depression in individuals, taking short breaks once in a while can help with stress and putting life into perspective. Remember that the difficulties with travelling while depressed lie in the before and after stages: planning and returning home from paradise. If one takes the time to plan thoroughly for the adjustments before and after travel then your trip will be a welcomed break instead of a total breakdown.

Planning before travel is the easy part: you can spend days on Lonely Planet researching hotels, sights, and food or you can even pay for someone to do it for you. The difficulties arise when we come back and have to deal with our life problems. Fortunately taking time to travel gives us the chance to think about our lives and strategize how to tackle depression. Dr. Seeman states that: “the vacation may have allowed [them] time to think about next steps and new purposes, so there may be a new determination to get help.” Of course therapy, meditation and counseling can help.

Remember that depression is a nuanced and complex emotion- one that can’t be cured by a miracle pill or a miracle plane ticket. Unless you take a good look at where depression comes from at home, it will always be along for the ride.