Just like being a parent of a human child, being a pet parent can be confusing with all the conflicting advice and polarised opinions out there. Raising a pet has much in common with parenting or teaching a young child. As a pet parent, you are responsible for educating yourself on how to best care for your pet. You are your pet's primary teacher as well as carer, guardian and advocate.
I am in the process of rewriting this blog post to reflect my changes in thought about this topic.
Some people get upset about the label 'pet parent' but I don't mind this term as I see a lot in common with the responsibilities involved with parenting and teaching a human child and caring for and training a pet. However, many people take it to an extreme and anthropomorphise their pets - this can result in a lot of problems. Dog and cats are not babies in fur suits.
My observations, personal experience and philosophy is that relationships based on trust and mutual respect and clear boundaries are the healthiest relationships, whether between humans or a human and pet. My philosophy has developed through my own experiences as a child, adult, parent, teacher, student, employee and employer. I have worked with children and adults with difficult behaviours. As a pet parent and pet sitter I have cared for many pets including dogs with fear aggression.
Parenting & Teaching Style
There are three main parenting and teaching styles which are on a spectrum. These parenting styles are equivalent to dog training philosophies.
At one end is an authoritarian style which is high on control and low on freedom and warmth. Someone with an authoritarian style is more likely to yell and use physical punishment in an attempt to gain compliance. People with an authoritarian style have a lot of strict rules with a lot of punishment. Children raised by authoritative parents are often obedient but at higher risk of suffering from depression (from extreme control).
At the other end of the spectrum is a permissive style which is high on freedom and warmth and low on control. Permissive parents often use bribery and fail to correct unacceptable behaviour. Children raised by permissive parents have a higher risk of behaviours such as taking underage recreational drugs (from poor self-control from having no boundaries).
Somewhere in the middle is an authoritative style which has a high level of warmth but has boundaries and expectations in place. An authoritative style balances freedom and responsibility and will be consistent in enforcing boundaries without using harsh punishments such as hitting or yelling. A person with an authoritarian style is kind, calm and assertive and consistent. Children raised with an authoritative style are more likely to be confident with good coping skills and more likely to succeed.
What I've observed is that whether in teaching or parenting humans or training dogs, neither an authoritarian nor permissive style gains respect. Fear is not the same as respect and respect can't be demanded, it is earned. An authoritative style gains respect. What happens when you gain respect? You can ask someone to do something and they will have no problem doing it without resentment or aggression. Without threats and intimidation such as from an authoritarian style nor resorting to bribery such as from a permissive style.
Xanthe founded an award-winning pet sitting business in QLD, Australia in 2011. After selling the business, she returned to Taupo, New Zealand.
The content on this blog is intended for informational purposes only. Opinions expressed on this blog are based on Xanthe's research and personal experience and should not be taken as a substitute for legal, business, veterinarian or animal behaviourist or animal training advice from a qualified professional. Content is copyright. Please share a link if you like a post - do not copy sections. Pet Purpose only endorses cruelty-free, modern, science-based animal training methods and advocates for animal welfare.
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