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It’s Official: Parenting Your Pet and Your Child is Not That Different

Blog Home Sep 11, 2020

Interesting stats to emerge from our recent study of 1,834 dog and cat owners have revealed that almost one in three (29%) adopt similar styles of parenting to their children and their pets.

In fact, only 16% said that they used a completely different style of parenting with their children compared to the one they use with their dog or cat.

“Dogs, like 11-year-olds, are independent in many ways – but they also need routine and boundaries.”


Around one in three (31%) said their parenting style with their pet had evolved as they got older.

And more than half (52%) believe their parenting style has led to a well-rounded and well-socialised pet, while 38% felt their pet parenting style had helped them to bond with their pet.

Around one in four (27%) also said their pet parenting style had improved their relationship with their pet.

Parenting pets and children require many of the same skills

Speaking about the survey results, Professor Peter Neville, a top pet behaviourist expert, said:

“It’s inevitable we become parents to our pets.

‘For top-of-the-food-chain predators and social primates to live in harmony together, it requires the pet – cat or dog – to work within certain boundaries set by the pet parent.

‘In turn, this sets the scene for co-dependency in a family structure.

‘Just like young children, adolescent animals will try and see what they can get away with.

‘They will work a situation to try and always get what they want. They understand how to manipulate behaviour, and this is where problems can arise – particularly with dogs.”

If your dog is running circles around you, Prof. Nevile has some insight as to why this can happen.

“If you don’t train your dog to give the things back that they shouldn’t have, whether it be a position on the sofa or your socks, they will assume it is theirs to keep.

‘If you let the dog get up on the bed because he isn’t well, you will then face conflict when you try to stop him the next time.

‘Dogs, like 11-year-olds, are independent in many ways – but they also need routine and boundaries.”

Cats can be just as crafty as dogs

Prof. Neville is quick to point out, however, that it’s not just dogs that you have to keep an eye out for. Cats are also pretty adept at trying to manipulating their humans, too.

“Cats are really good at seeing what they can do, seeing if they can get away with it, and then carrying on with it.

‘They are adept at learning our rules and understanding them.

‘However, if we put a little bit of effort in when it comes to setting boundaries, we can shape their behaviour.

‘They are pretty adaptable, but they will always learn more about us than we do about them.”

So, what are the top pet parenting styles?

The same study revealed that our nation’s pets are most likely to experience pet ‘paw-renting’ styles such as the ‘Traffic Light’, the ‘Entranced’, the ‘Sloth’ or the ‘Constable.’

Prof. Neville explains that these ‘pet parent personas’ have become more common in line with our growing desire to ‘humanise pets’, and ensure that they ‘feel like one of the family’.

He said:

“It’s fascinating to discover that there are clearly different categories or ‘personas’.

‘The ‘Traffic Light’ is the clear winner (from the data we’ve anaysed), with 28% of pet parents adopting this style.

‘This is good – it shows most pet parents are sensitive, caring owners.”

You can read all about the different pet parenting styles (and find out which one you are!) here.