As pet parents, we all want the very best for our four-legged children. And like human parents, we all have different philosophies as to what ‘good’ parenting is. Some believe that children need structure and discipline, while others tend to spoil their kids rotten. And just like human children, the parenting style that we adopt with our pets can have a significant impact on their well-being and quality of life.
Certified dog behaviorist and trainer, Russell Hartstein states that “Disorders, emotional and cognitive states such as separation anxiety, general anxiety, reactivity, and aggression are all influenced by a parent and immediate family that a dog has frequent interactions with,”.
THE 3 TYPES OF PARENTING STYLES
In human behavioral theory, there are three prominent parenting styles and it turns out that these parenting tendencies are often applied to our four-legged children as well (whether you have human kids or not). Just as the parent-child relationship impacts the well-being of human children so does the parent-child relationship impact the well-being of canine children.
Here are the three most common parenting styles. See which one reflects your own parenting and learn which style is likely best for your child – human or otherwise.
Authoritarian parents tend to focus on obedience, rules, punishment, and consequences. This parenting style can be quite rigid and often leaves no room for interpretation. They want their children to understand how they are supposed to behave and that there are consequences for failing to behave as desired.
Permissive parents are lenient, rarely enforce rules, and are less focused on obedience and punishment. These parents tend to fawn over their children and make every effort to provide them with everything they need or want. Basically, they spoil them rotten.
AUTHORITATIVE (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH AUTHORITARIAN)
Authoritative parents tend to draw a line in the sand when it comes to certain behaviors. These parents set limits and use consequences to enforce those limits. At the same time, authoritative parents also focus on positive reinforcement for good behaviors and are more likely to validate a child’s feelings.
SO WHICH PARENTING STYLE IS BEST?
As you may have guessed, dogs that grow up with authoritative parents tend to have better outcomes than those brought up in an authoritarian or permissive environment.
A recent study from the journal Animal Cognition found that authoritative parents had dogs with higher rates of secure attachment (how the dog responded to its owner during close interactions), sociability (how the dog responded to strangers), and problem-solving skills (the dog’s ability to retrieve a treat from a puzzle) .
Dogs that were raised in an authoritarian (strict) environment were insecurely attached to their owners, becoming anxious in their absence. These dogs were also far less social with strangers. They seemed to need the guidance that their owner has provided them and had little confidence navigating unfamiliar situations.
Dogs that were brought up in permissive environments would follow the social cues of an unfamiliar person but not those of their owner. They did not look to their owner for guidance. These dogs were also less persistent at problem-solving tasks, as if they assumed someone would solve it for them..
Oregon State University animal behaviorist, Monique Udell notes that “This is an important finding because it suggests that dog owners who take the time to understand and meet their dog’s needs are more likely to end up with secure, resilient dogs.”.