Why does Martha have a baseball cap? | The Time Traveller’s Dog on

photo1-4630664My dog Martha, pictured here in a fetching winter sweater, has traditional dog coats, a couple of fetching hoodies, and even her own baseball cap.  But why do we insist on dressing our best friends in human clothes?   Clay Routledge suggests that one explanation might be that we are seeking to extend our own mortality through our canine companions.

Just as we recognise our own mortality and seek to perpetuate our genetic lifespan through our children, so Routledge argues we similarly anthropomorphise our pet dogs in order to share our “species superiority” and extend our existence through them.

It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not convinced!  I think the explanation is much simpler.  If our dogs do share something in common with our children then it is that, in addition to regarding them as part of the family, we also have an unfortunate habit of tending to treat them as possessions too.  Through our children, we use conspicuous consumption to reinforce our own self-esteem as much as theirs, dressing them in designer clothing, the latest must-have trainers, and so on.  Our kids reinforce our status, in other words, and we achieve this through consumption.  I think this is exactly what is going on with our dogs, too.  We treat them as family members, yes, but we also decorate them in the latest designer trappings so we look good as well.

I think this is a much more plausible explanation than a pseudo-evolutionary one.  Certainly, one only has to spend a half-hour wandering around the latest petcare trend (designer stores!) to see merit in this explanation evident in the big-name brands on display.  Which begs the question, why is the literature on consumer behaviour toward animals not afforded more academic attention?

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