The Best Way To Parent Your Dog, According To Study

For a social and smart pup 🐶

It’s probably safe to say that how a parent chooses to raise a child can affect how they’ll turn out as an adult. And according to a new study, the same goes for dogs, too.

Animal behaviorists from Oregon State University have concluded that if you parent your pup in a certain way, a style known as “authoritative,” your dog will grow up to be more social, secure and smart.

"We found that pet parenting style does predict patterns of dog behavior and cognition," animal behaviorist Monique Udell from Oregon State University told Science Direct.

So, what’s involved in this parenting style, and how did researchers come to this conclusion, anyway?

After surveying nearly 50 dog parents about different styles of pet parenting, the participants were split into three groups based on their answers: authoritative (high expectations, high responsiveness), authoritarian (high expectations, low responsiveness) and permissive (low expectations, high responsiveness).

After some behavioral tests, researchers found that dog parents who took an authoritative style in their pet parenting had dogs with the highest rate of secure attachment (those that felt secure in their parent’s ability to meet their needs), and were highly social and intelligent. They were also the only pups who could solve the puzzle task part of the behavioral tests.

"This 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,” Udell told Science Direct.

What is authoritative pet parenting?

To understand what an authoritative pet parenting style actually means, we spoke to Sarah Fraser, co-founder and co-CEO of Instinct Dog Behavior & Training.

“Authoritative (pet) parenting is all about building a positive, healthy relationship with our dogs, based on providing them with clear, supportive guidance,” Fraser told The Dodo.

There are three main ways that pet parents can work on fostering this type of healthy relationship dynamic with their dogs, according to Fraser:

Be safe

When pet parents take the time to learn about canine body language, they’ll be able to recognize when their dog is feeling uncomfortable and adjust their interactions. It also means avoiding behavior that your dog may interpret as threatening or scary — yelling, stomping feet, making prolonged eye contact or leaning over them.

Be predictable

Reliability is also important in authoritative pet parenting — establishing routines for daily activities, gently and consistently enforcing household boundaries, and offering consistent praise and reward for good behavior.

Be helpful

Basically, this means being responsive to your dog’s needs by stepping up to provide them with guidance, direction and protection when they may feel scared or unsure of a situation.

“Our dogs are dependent family members who are completely reliant on us to meet their needs and help them navigate our often-confusing human world,” Fraser said. “The types of relationships we form with them have a tremendous impact on their overall behavioral health and well-being.”

They say it takes a village to raise a child — we think the same could be said for raising a dog! Here’s to being the best pet parent you can be.