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Description: Quick question. Is having a dog good for you psychologically? Don’t do any searching on the question, just go with what you have heard or recall. Answer? Good for you, right? Maybe you have heard that regular time with dogs extends the lives of elderly people or that dog companions help their human friend cope with anxiety or depression. However, outside of trained companion dogs for folks with PTSD or other issues, is it systematically true that dogs are good for you? What about the anxiety of worrying about your canine companion, for example? I had a dog for years but after the last one passed I have been leaning more towards not getting another dog given the daily time demands and the limits on travel etc. So, think about what a large study looking into this question might have to suggest and then read the article linked below to see what one such study has to say.

Source: New study sheds light on the positive and negative impacts of dog ownership on psychological wellbeing, Emily Manis, Psypost.

Date: September 15, 2022

Image by Helen Sushitskaya from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, the relationship between dog ownership and wellbeing is not as straightforward as we believed it was. In addition to the direct drawdowns associated with dog ownership on worry, anxiety and time commitments there are the more complex questions of causality. Large survey studies are correlational, meaning that they do not provide opportunity to do more than speculate about the causal connections among the variables studied. Are more anxious or depressed people more or less likely to get a dog? That would affect the observed correlational relationship between dog owner and wellbeing related to anxiety and depression. So, of course, more research is needed. However, for now, do not make your dog ownership decisions dependent on wellbeing concerns, just enjoy the companionship.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is dog owner ship good for you?
  2. What are some conditions that might impact the answer to the previous question?
  3. What sorts of research could/should provide us with a cleaner perspective on these questions?

References (Read Further):

Merkouri, A., Graham, T. M., O’Haire, M. E., Purewal, R., & Westgarth, C. (2022). Dogs and the Good Life: A cross sectional study of the association between the dog-owner relationship and owner mental wellbeing. Frontiers in psychology, 4001. Link

Herzog, H. (2011). The impact of pets on human health and psychological well-being: fact, fiction, or hypothesis?. Current directions in psychological science, 20(4), 236-239. Link

Headey, B., & Grabka, M. M. (2007). Pets and human health in Germany and Australia: National longitudinal results. Social Indicators Research, 80(2), 297-311. Link

Wells, D. L. (2019). The state of research on human–animal relations: Implications for human health. Anthrozoös, 32(2), 169-181. Link

Souter, M. A., & Miller, M. D. (2007). Do animal-assisted activities effectively treat depression? A meta-analysis. Anthrozoös, 20(2), 167-180. Link

Friedmann, E., Thomas, S. A., & Son, H. (2011). Pets, depression and long-term survival in community living patients following myocardial infarction. Anthrozoös, 24(3), 273-285. Link

Antonacopoulos, N. M. D., & Pychyl, T. A. (2010). An examination of the potential role of pet ownership, human social support and pet attachment in the psychological health of individuals living alone. Anthrozoös, 23(1), 37-54. Link