Evaluating Dog-Human Relationship Models: Lupomorphism, Babymorphism, and Friendship


The dog-human relationship is a complex and essential aspect of canine care and training. This entry examines three prominent models of this relationship: lupomorphism, babymorphism, and friendship. Lupomorphism focuses on the hierarchical pack structure, drawing comparisons between dogs and their wolf ancestors. Babymorphism emphasizes the caregiving and emotional bond aspects of the relationship, treating dogs as akin to human infants. Finally, the friendship model views the bond as a mutually beneficial partnership based on trust, cooperation, and shared experiences. By comparing and contrasting these models, we highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, ultimately demonstrating that a comprehensive understanding of the dog-human bond should consider aspects from all three models. Integrating elements from lupomorphism, babymorphism, and friendship allows for a more holistic approach to canine care and training, which can ultimately lead to improved communication, stronger bonds, and enhanced well-being for both dogs and their human caregivers. By recognizing the complex nature of the dog-human relationship, we can develop better strategies to nurture and maintain these unique and invaluable connections.


Dogs have been considered humans’ best friends for centuries, and the bond between dogs and humans is unique and multifaceted. Understanding the nature of this relationship is crucial for effective communication, training, and care. Various models have been proposed to explain the dog-human relationship, each offering a different perspective on the dynamics at play. This paper will explore three such models: lupomorphism, babymorphism, and friendship. By comparing and contrasting these models, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the dog-human bond and inform best practices for dog care and training.

Lupomorphism Model

Description: Lupomorphism is a model that emphasizes the wolf-like nature of dogs, drawing comparisons between the behavior of dogs and their wild ancestors, the wolves. In this model, dog-human relationships are based on the idea that dogs are primarily pack animals, and they see their human family members as part of their pack. The focus is on establishing a hierarchy, with the human taking the role of the “alpha,” leading and controlling the pack.

Arguments for Lupomorphism

  1. Evolutionary roots: Proponents of this model argue that since dogs have evolved from wolves, their behavior is still heavily influenced by their ancestry. This means that dogs have an innate understanding of hierarchy and pack dynamics, making it easier for them to accept and respond to human leadership.
  2. Clear structure: Lupomorphism provides a clear structure for the dog-human relationship, allowing for an easily understood and consistent approach to training and discipline. By establishing themselves as the alpha, humans can ensure that their dogs understand and respect their authority.
  3. Reduced behavioral issues: Advocates of this model believe that by addressing the dog’s natural pack instincts, many behavioral issues can be mitigated or even eliminated. The dog will feel secure in its place in the pack, reducing the likelihood of anxiety, aggression, or disobedience.

Arguments against Lupomorphism

  1. Oversimplification: Critics of lupomorphism argue that it oversimplifies the complex nature of dog behavior, as well as the dog-human relationship. While it is true that dogs evolved from wolves, they have also been selectively bred for thousands of years to possess certain traits that make them better companions for humans.
  2. Misunderstanding of wolf behavior: Recent research on wolf pack dynamics has shown that the hierarchical structure is not as rigid as previously believed. Instead, wolf packs often operate based on cooperation and familial bonds. This challenges the assumptions that the lupomorphism model is based on.
  3. Inappropriate training methods: Some of the training techniques associated with lupomorphism, such as dominance-based methods or physical punishment, can be harmful or counterproductive. These methods can damage the dog-human bond and may even exacerbate behavioral issues in some cases.

In conclusion, while lupomorphism provides a structured approach to understanding dog behavior, it may oversimplify the complexities of the dog-human relationship and rely on outdated or inaccurate assumptions about canine behavior. It is important to consider alternative models, such as babymorphism or friendship, to create a more holistic understanding of the dog-human bond.

Babymorphism Model

Description: Babymorphism is a model that compares the dog-human relationship to that of a parent and child. In this perspective, dogs are seen as similar to human infants, relying on their human caregivers for protection, guidance, and nurturing. This model emphasizes the importance of attachment, bonding, and emotional connection between the dog and its human family members.

Arguments for Babymorphism

  1. Emotional bond: Proponents of the babymorphism model argue that treating dogs as family members, akin to children, fosters a strong emotional bond between dogs and humans. This bond is essential for creating a sense of security and trust, which is crucial for a healthy and stable relationship.
  2. Empathy and understanding: By viewing dogs as vulnerable and dependent, this model encourages empathy and understanding from their human caregivers. This approach can lead to more patient, gentle, and effective training and communication methods that prioritize the dog’s emotional well-being.
  3. Instinctive caregiving: The babymorphism model taps into humans’ innate caregiving instincts, which have evolved to ensure the survival and well-being of our offspring. This approach can make it easier for humans to connect with and care for their dogs, as it aligns with deeply ingrained biological drives.

Arguments against Babymorphism

  1. Anthropomorphism: Critics of the babymorphism model argue that it encourages the inappropriate projection of human emotions and characteristics onto dogs, which can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication. Dogs have unique needs, behaviors, and communication styles that differ from human children, and treating them as such may not always be beneficial.
  2. Overindulgence: Treating dogs like human babies can lead to overindulgence, where dogs are excessively pampered or coddled. This can result in a lack of boundaries, discipline, and structure, potentially contributing to behavioral issues and an imbalanced dog-human relationship.
  3. Ignoring canine instincts: The babymorphism model may inadvertently overlook or downplay the importance of canine instincts and natural behaviors, such as the need for exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization with other dogs. By focusing solely on the emotional bond and caregiving aspects, this model may not fully address all aspects of a dog’s well-being.

In conclusion, the babymorphism model highlights the importance of emotional connection, empathy, and caregiving in the dog-human relationship. However, it may risk anthropomorphism, overindulgence, and an underemphasis on canine instincts. It is essential to consider alternative models, such as lupomorphism or friendship, to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the dog-human bond.

Friendship Model

Description: The friendship model views the dog-human relationship as a mutually beneficial partnership, akin to a friendship between humans. In this perspective, dogs and humans offer each other companionship, support, and affection, based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding. This model emphasizes communication, cooperation, and shared experiences as the foundations for a strong dog-human bond.

Arguments for Friendship

  1. Mutual respect: Proponents of the friendship model argue that treating dogs as equal partners in the relationship fosters mutual respect and understanding. This approach can lead to more effective communication and cooperation, as both the dog and the human work together to achieve common goals.
  2. Emotional support: The friendship model acknowledges the emotional support and companionship that dogs and humans provide each other. By focusing on the emotional aspects of the relationship, this model promotes a strong bond built on trust, affection, and shared experiences.
  3. Positive reinforcement: The friendship model often emphasizes positive reinforcement training methods, which are based on rewarding desired behaviors and fostering a willingness to cooperate. This approach is not only effective but also promotes a healthy, trusting relationship between the dog and its human caregiver.

Arguments against Friendship

  1. Inadequate structure: Critics of the friendship model argue that treating dogs as equal partners may not provide enough structure and boundaries for some dogs, leading to potential behavioral issues. It is essential to establish clear expectations and guidelines to ensure a balanced and harmonious relationship.
  2. Overlooking natural instincts: While the friendship model focuses on communication and cooperation, it may not adequately address a dog’s natural instincts and needs, such as the desire for social hierarchy or the need for mental and physical stimulation. A comprehensive understanding of dog behavior should consider these factors as well.
  3. Inconsistency: The friendship model can be more subjective than other models, as the definition of a “friendship” may vary between individuals. This subjectivity can lead to inconsistency in training and handling methods, potentially confusing the dog and hindering its ability to understand and meet its human caregiver’s expectations.

In conclusion, the friendship model offers a valuable perspective on the dog-human relationship, emphasizing communication, cooperation, and emotional support. However, it may not provide enough structure, adequately address canine instincts, or offer consistency in training and handling methods. Considering alternative models, such as lupomorphism or babymorphism, can help create a more comprehensive understanding of the dog-human bond.


This analysis explored three different models of dog-human relationships: lupomorphism, babymorphism, and friendship. Lupomorphism emphasizes the pack animal nature of dogs and hierarchical structures, babymorphism treats dogs as human infants with a focus on caregiving and emotional bonds, and the friendship model views the relationship as a mutually beneficial partnership based on trust and cooperation. Each model has its strengths and weaknesses, with no single approach providing a complete understanding of the complex dog-human bond. A comprehensive perspective should consider aspects from each model to create a balanced and holistic approach to dog care and training.

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Tony Bierman, "Evaluating Dog-Human Relationship Models: Lupomorphism, Babymorphism, and Friendship," OBTESA, Accessed June 18, 2024, http://esbt.us/es.