Authoritative Versus Authoritarian


Many of us have high expectations of our dogs, but how we respond to them when they follow through successfully makes all the difference in how well-adjusted they turn out. Researchers at Oregon State University observed dogs reacting in a number of situations that would shed light on their relationships with their people and their psychological adjustment overall. Those dogs whose human family members expected much of them but were very responsive when they succeeded and also accepting of the dogs (an authoritative approach) were found to have the highest rates of secure attachment. They were also highly social, sensitive to social context, and persistent and successful on a problem-solving task (opening a food puzzle box).

Those dogs whose people expected much of them but were not especially responsive to their pets’ following through and valued obedience over individuality (authoritarian) were less secure and less social and gave up more quickly in an attempt to follow through on a task that required brain power and persistence. 

The bottom line: Dogs are eager to please and get along with us. But without sufficient feedback when they get things right, and without our acceptance that each dog has its own personality, they cannot be their best selves. Such dogs are left more emotionally adrift. 


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