Emotional benefits of dog ownership: Impact of the presence of a pet dog on owners' responses to negative mood induction
Though there is an expanding focus on the beneficial role of pets in the fields of nursing and veterinary medicine, the social sciences have been behind in paying attention to the significant role that pets play in human lives. Much has been made of findings that pet dogs may have a significant impact on physiological measures of health. However, dogs have also been associated with psychological measures of well-being, both through animal-assisted therapy and in the general population of dog owners. Whether the mechanism is touch, exercise, attachment, nonevaluative social support, or some combination of these, the human connection to the non-human animal world merits further investigation. Previous results have been mixed, and studies suffer from a lack of large sample sizes or sufficient control conditions, among other weaknesses.
The current study attempts to address some of the gaps in the literature by assessing the impact of the presence of pet dogs on their owners’ responses to a negative mood induction procedure. Controlling for dog ownership as well as for the presence of the dog, and collecting demographic information from each participant in addition to measures of self-esteem, depression, social support, attitudes towards pets, and attachment to pets, this study found that among single female dog owners, positive attitudes towards animals were associated with positive mood prior to the mood induction. In addition, dog owners accompanied by their dogs experienced significantly lower despondency scores compared to non-owners prior to the mood induction. However, the presence of a pet dog was associated with increases in anxiety and apprehension subsequent to the mood induction, suggesting the importance of considering contextual factors when evaluating the emotional benefits of dog ownership.
0382: Physical therapy
0622: Clinical psychology