Bringing up a Four-Legged Friend?


New study reveals pet parenting personas are as common for cats and canines as they are for kids

The ‘Traffic Light’, The ‘Entranced’ or The ‘Sloth’ …  which method do you prefer when ‘paw-renting’ your pet?

Experts probed the way the country’s dog and cat owners interact with their furry friends and found almost three quarters (66 per cent) admitted they would fit into a particular parenting style when it comes to their beloved family pet.

But while the nation’s kids are brought up by ‘Helicopter’ parents and ‘Tiger’ mums, the study by pet wellbeing firm found our nation’s pets are more likely to experience pet paw’renting alternatives such as the ‘Traffic Light’, the ‘Entranced’, the ‘Sloth’ and the ‘Constable’.

Other popular methods have been identified as the ‘Hy-Paw-Chondriac’, the ‘Goose’, the ‘Pinot Noir’ and the ‘Sergeant Major’, with the ‘Paws-off Parent’, and the ‘Baggage Handler’ completing the top ten of most typical pet paw’renting styles based on feedback from over 1,800 UK pet parents.

Top pet behavioural expert Professor Peter Neville, who worked with pet well-being specialists said “pet parent personas” have become more common in line with our growing desire to humanize pets to ensure they feel like one of the family”.

Prof. Neville added: “It’s fascinating to discover that there are clearly different categories or “personas” when it comes to pet paw’renting.

“The ‘Traffic Light’ is the clear winner from the data we’ve analysed, with 28 per cent of pet parents adopting this style, which is good. It shows most pet parents are sensitive, caring owners.

“Traffic Light’ pet owners have a healthy balance of rules and freedom. Pets might be given the red light when it comes to surfaces or the bed, but these owners enjoy nothing better than giving them the go-ahead to roam freely in the park.

“They have also mastered training essentials like sit, stay and recall, which gives them a trust in each other and builds confidence in offering a patient response to your amber light signal ‘wait for it…’, ‘watch me’…

“They also guide their pets away from danger, but love giving them the green light to enjoy themselves.

“The ‘Entranced’ was the second most common type, voted for by 15 per cent of pet owners.

“These people have the best intentions, but as soon as their pet locks eyes with them and gives their command, they’re toast …. as they turn to putty in their paws.

“Entranced’ owners are at their pet’s beck and call, even if it’s 4am and their furry friend is sat on their chest glaring intently wanting breakfast …. ‘of course, no problem …’. You need to nip out for a wee at 5am? …… ‘Yes sir, no problem’.

“The most laid back of the types is the ‘Sloth’ (14 per cent). Dogs and cats who are lucky enough to have a sloth for a paw-rent are the envy of the street’s pet-life – as they are spoiled rotten.

“These guys are the champion of chill, anything goes.  There’s a peacefulness in being gentle and easy-going.

“Rather than strict training, they encourage their pet to work things out for themselves.

“Sloths are happy turning a blind eye to the odd indoor accident, their furry friend wandering on a kitchen surface, or completely ignoring an abrupt recall, because rules are meant to be broken, right? And how can you resist those eyes….?.

“The ‘Constable’ (13 per cent) has a strong focus on law and order. They are firm but fair.

“Obedience and good manners are imperative in their household and they have a clear set of signals to help their pet understand their wishes.

“’Constables’ are responsible when it comes to grooming, exercising, diet and wellbeing and in the way they allow their pet to greet and interact with visitors.

“Meal-times are a prescribed amount of food at a specific time and is served in the same specific place, and they don’t treat their pets like indulged children.

“However, almost one in ten owners (nine per cent) admitted they are ‘Hy-Paw-Chondriacs’, who always put their pet’s health first.

“These are the folk who cheer their dog or cat up with treats, perhaps more than they should.

“They have rushed their pooch or pussy to the vet on so many occasions, they’re now on first name terms with the staff on the front desk.

“Usually, nothing is wrong though, but the journey was worth it ‘just to be sure’.

“Seven percent of those who took part in the study confessed to being the ‘Goose’.

“It goes without question that the ‘Goose’ protects their young, so these people go all out in safeguarding their cat or dog. If they have a puppy, they’re never under or overdressed. The ‘Goose’ has an outfit ready to cater for all weather conditions.

“They often limit their time away from their pet or get people to pop in on them regularly even if they’re just out for a few hours. They will also happily take days off when their pet is poorly.

“When it comes to webcams and pet monitors, they either own one already or feel they and their pet would benefit from one, so they don’t start to miss each other.

“The ‘Goose’ is also prepared to confront other pet owners if their pet oversteps the mark in the park and they are never happier than when talking about their pet.

“Other types include the ‘Pinot Noir’ (seven per cent) whose pet enjoys the finer things in life. These owners love to please their pets and have that love reciprocated.

“’Pinot Noirs’ will cut-back to sustain their pet’s expectations and go above and beyond whether it’s personalised or even home-made food, regular physio appointments or bespoke supplements and nutrition.

“Splashing out on this season’s designer rain mac is likely and no expense is spared on Buddy or Bertie, who if boarding an aircraft would most certainly be turning left.

“The ‘Paws-off Parent’ (three per cent) personifies the old proverb that ‘it takes a village’ to raise a child.

“Whether it’s parents, neighbours, friends or even your colleagues – they have a huge support network who are instrumental in the upbringing of Daisy or Duke.

“Their pet fits into their lifestyle as opposed to dictating it.

“However, the ‘Sergeant Major’ (two per cent) demands respect from their pet.

“Their four-legged friend has an expert grasp of commands. Control and regimented ways of behaving are important to them.

“Consequences for failing to comply include loss of privileges or a verbal dressing down.

“Finally, the ‘Baggage Handler’ (one per cent) does exactly as described. If they have a bag on their arm, their dog or cat is almost certainly in it. They love being close and going on adventures together. A pet’s comfort and security is always at the front of their mind.

“They check carefully before putting them on the ground, making sure other animals don’t frighten them and they ensure everything is safe to walk on.”

A spokesperson for said: “We have a dedicated community of over 70,000 pet parents who are not only keen to ensure their pets get the best flea and worming subscription on the market, but also often tell our team tales about the trials and tribulations of raising their four-legged friends.

“It’s been well documented that 2020 has seen a surge in people taking the plunge and adopting a dog or cat, so our team – many of them pet parents themselves – have spent the past few months talking to those customers who have had to adapt and learn about how to raise their new family member and be the best pet parent possible”.

“What we’ve heard from our customers is, just like raising a child, certain decisions have to be made early on when it comes to acceptable behaviour in the home and how that is taught. But it’s not one size fits all; everyone has their own pet “paw-renting style”.

Interesting stats to emerge from the study of 1,834 dog and cat owners were that almost one in three (29 per cent) adopt similar styles of parenting to their children and pets.

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

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

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

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

Professor Peter Neville concluded: “It’s inevitable we become parents to our pets. For top-of-the food chain predators and social primates to live in harmony together requires the pet – cat or dog – to work within certain boundaries set by the pet parent – which in turn 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 the problems can arise – particularly with dogs.

“If you don’t train the 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 that 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 also need routine and boundaries.

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

Overall top ten ‘Paw-Renting’ types

  1. Traffic Light                        28 per cent
  2. Entranced                          15 per cent
  3. Sloth                                   14 per cent
  4. Constable                           13 per cent
  5. Hy-Paw-Chondriac           9 per cent
  6. Goose                                 7 per cent
  7. Pinot Noir                          7 per cent
  8. Paws off Parent                 3 per cent
  9. Sergeant Major                 2 per cent
  10. Baggage Handler              1 per cent

Top 10 dog ‘Paw-Renting’ types

  1. Traffic Light                       36 per cent
  2. Constable                          16 per cent
  3. Entranced                          12 per cent
  4. Goose                                 8 per cent
  5. Hy-Paw-Chondriac           8 per cent
  6. Sloth                                   7 per cent
  7. Pinot Noir                          7 per cent
  8. Paws off parent                3 per cent
  9. Sergeant Major                2 per cent
  10. Baggage Handler              1 per cent

Top 10 cat ‘Paw-Renting’ types

  1. Sloth                                   22 per cent
  2. Traffic Light                       19 per cent
  3. Entranced                          18 per cent
  4. Constable                           12 per cent
  5. Hy-Paw-Chondriac           10 per cent
  6. Pinot noir                           8 per cent
  7. Goose                                 7 per cent
  8. Paws off parent                3 per cent
  9. Sergeant Major                 1 per cent
  10. Baggage Handler              1 per cent

Professor Neville’s Pet Paw’renting Tips

  1. Be a Traffic Light and give clear and consistent signals, not same signals and different outcomes
  2. If you say, ‘yes good’, it’s always ‘yes, good’. Don’t look imploringly then treat. Be consistent in rewarding from day one
  3. Reinforcement is what is behind the ‘Traffic Light’ approach, clear signals, so red means no, amber means under condition or wait or sit and green means ‘what the heck’
  4. Altering your pet parenting style can benefit you and your pet
  5. If you live in a small apartment it is okay to be a Constable, but if you are very indulgent you can become a ‘Hy-Paw-Chondriac’ and even ‘Entranced’ if you don’t mind the bills

About ITCH 

ITCH is a pet wellbeing brand which offers a personalised flea subscription service. It was developed to create ease and convenience for pet owners, by having treatment delivered directly to your door regularly.

The company was co-founded by direct-to-consumer entrepreneur James Cox [co-founder YYX Capital and Europe’s fastest growing sleep tech firm Simba], pet supplies retailers Jonny and Adam Gould [co-founders Monster Pet Supplies] and marketer Charlotte Harper [CMO of Zoopla and UK MD].

Since the launch the company has raised £5 million in investment from Seedcamp, Nigel Wray and Cox’s YYX Capital amongst others. ITCH plans to raise a further £10 million by the end of 2019 to support the brand roll out in the US next year.

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