How you show up in your life affects your pets profoundly! (Often in ways you are unaware of)
One fundamental way most humans behave when interacting with other people (and their pets) is as Givers (can be a healthy or unhealthy giver – and this is important!), Matchers (I’ll do this for you, but only if you do that for me), or Takers. How does all of this play our when it comes to pet-wellbeing?
(These concepts are inspired by the information in the book ‘Give And Take’ by Adam Grant – see link at the bottom of this blog.)
I think a lot about how human behaviour affects pets. In nearly every pet I see, the human is a factor in the health issues, anxiety, or whatever is ‘wrong’ with the pet. I want to get right into the meat and bones straight away here and say that a lot of this is mostly subconscious or unconscious. No pet guardian worth their salt wants to do anything that will cause the least little bit of harm to their pets.
Check out this picture:
Let’s unpack how the behaviour patterns of Giving, Matching, and Taking correlate to success in life as humans and affect your pets.
How successful you are in life (happiness, health, financially, etc.) affects your pets all over the place, in every way possible. Generally, the more successful you are, the happier your pets are. Simple as that, and unavoidable!
As you can see in the image above, the middle of the bell curve of success is filled with Matchers and Takers. Interestingly, the group of people who are most successful are Givers, as are the least successful group. Take note that Unhealthy Givers are the least successful of all (these are people who give at their own expense - they empty their cups until they have nothing left, and are often taken advantage of by Takers). And Healthy Givers are super-succesful!
There are two ways that your behaviour (Giving/Matching/Taking) affects your pets
How your behaviour affects your success and well-being in life has a flow-on effect for your pets. If you don't have abundant resources (emotionally, physically, financially etc.) then you often can’t give your pets the best food, the best health care, or have the time to go out and play with them.
If you are a Healthy Giver, you’re going to be most likely to have overall success, happiness, an abundance of resources and high energy levels.
A Healthy Giver gives intelligently, does not give if it compromises their life and integrity in any way, and is aware of takers, so they can make sure not to be taken advantage of by them. They manage Matchers well too, and are willing to give and take if need be.
At the core, Healthy Givers always want to do everything they can to help others succeed. Being generous in this healthy way bears great dividends over time, as people appreciate being supported. If you help people, they will tend to want to help you, because they like you and trust you. Being a Healthy Giver build social capital over time.
Take note: ANYONE CAN LEARN HOW TO BECOME A HEALTHY GIVER!
If you are an Unhealthy Giver, then you’ll empty your cup. Your pets miss out because you don't have anything left to give to them when you come home. Or they miss out because your lack resources in other ways. You’ll end up stressed and unhappy, too, which also impacts on your pets negatively.
If you are a Matcher, well, you might well be ok, be able to make sure that you have enough to give to your pets, but if you can slowly become more generous and learn how to be a healthy giver, then over time your life will blossom, and your pets will benefit. (More on this dynamic in relation to how you interact with your pets in Number 2.)
If you are a Taker, you might not end up in the worst place on the success bell curve, where the Unhealthy Givers live, but you generally won’t be able to reach the healthy heights of true, balanced, generous success.
The other downside of being a Taker is that if you keep on taking without any reciprocity, sooner or later people notice, and nobody likes to give with nothing in return. Being a Taker destroys social capital over time.
If you are a Taker, then you can first learn how to be a Matcher, and then slowly stretch into becoming a Healthy Giver. None of these patterns are set in stone, though it may take some work to face and change them!
Now we are going to crack the bones open and get into the marrow of this topic. We will now dig into how your patterns of behaviour in this respect impact your pets in your everyday life.
Let’s start with the best possible option - the Healthy Giver. This is where you give your pets what they need freely - lots of love, incredible cuddles, and the best food. However, you have clear boundaries, and you don't give your pets what is bad for them (e.g. too much food, junk food that they love), even when your pets put pressure on you.
You don’t withhold from your pets. All of you can be present with them. Your cup is full, so you don't overly depend on your pets for emotional support. You don’t look after your pets at your own expense. You make sure you look after yourself as well as you look after them.
Next best would be the Matcher. This is the tit-for-tat pattern. ‘I’ll do this for you this, but only if you do that for me…’
While this can be ok, you need to make sure that you’re not short-changing your dogs by demanding that they do something for you before you’ll do something for them. There is a danger of you withholding expressions of love and connection if the Matcher is your core pattern. These patterns can run deep, and you may not have a conscious awareness that you are running them in your life and with your dogs. It’s good to be curious about what you don't know about how you behave.
I feel that the Unhealthy Giver is the second worst of all. Worse for you (because your cup is chronically empty), and worse for your dogs. This pattern often has no boundaries, and won't give their dogs the clear boundaries and healthy restrictions (e.g. not overfeeding, dieting when necessary) that are going to be the best for the dog’s well-being.
The worst pattern of all is the Taker. Takers strive to get as much as possible from others. If you have unconscious Taker patterns active, then you may take from your pets emotionally, using them for emotional support at their cost. You might also push your dogs too hard in competition because you want to take a blue ribbon home. Or you might be greedy for yourself, and leave your pets wanting in certain areas.
Your Ideal Pet-care Professionals Are Healthy Givers
Let’s touch on being aware of this dynamic when you choose your pets’ vets, groomers, allied and holistic health professionals, trainers, etc. If you can find people who are Healthy Givers, you’ll be onto a winner. You’ll have a team of generous-hearted, kind, awesome people helping your pets be well and happy. They will tend to under-promise and over-deliver.
You can pick them by things like seeing that they donate some of their income to worthy causes, or that they do volunteer work, but it’ll shine through in the language they use in their writing on their websites and so on. They will tend to have VERY clear boundaries around when they are not available, too! They will charge a high fee for a great job, but will often offer discounts or pro bono work for those in financial distress (but only as much as they can without compromising their life and business).
Matchers can be harder to pick, but you’ll quickly find that they are more transactional. And you’ll never get anything extra without needing to pay more for it. Their generosity is more conditional. They can be fine as professionals for your pets! Especially when you get how they tick.
Unhealthy Givers would come out to see your pet in the middle of the night and do it for half price, again and again. Poor boundaries! Continually exhausted, running late, empty cup. Their pricing will often be low. They want to help everyone, but can’t help anyone really well in the end. I don't recommend working long-term with these ones.
Takers will often charge high fees, but not necessarily go the extra mile when it comes to the services provided. You might feel a bit short-changed. If they can squeeze more out of you, they will, so you may feel like you are being over-serviced or pressured into purchasing things you didn't really want to after you tangle with a Taker. They will be more likely to over-promise and under-deliver.
Sometimes it might take a little while to work people out. Move away from Takers when you can, or if you can’t, be super-careful NOT to let them take advantage of you.
I don’t recommend working with Unhealthy Givers either. The quality of service inevitably suffers because they run on a chronically empty cup.
Matchers can be great, but you will know how they tick, and be able to manage the situation better.
Takers can do great work, but you need to be strong, boundaried, and never let them take more than is fair from you, in any way. You may have to pull them up on charges and fees. Generally I would not want to work with Takers if there was a better alternative available.
And if you notice Taker behaviours in your beautiful self, it’s never too soon to learn how to be a Matcher first, and then a Healthy Giver over time. Your pets (and your life) will thank you so much over time!
Learn more about the book: ‘Givers and Takers’ by Adam Grant at
And check out the companion video for this post at: https://youtu.be/8kqJgH0WAf8