How Important Is Your Dog in Your Family and Social Life?

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Our society is changing, and perhaps because our extended families no longer live so close to us, or perhaps because urban lifestyles or work demands interfere with our ability to establish close social connections, it appears that our pet dogs have begun to fill the emotional voids that modern living has left in our family and personal relationships. There is already lots of data which shows that dogs are thought of as family members (click here for more on that) and there are many instances where we treat them socially much the way that we do other people (click here to read about that). However a new survey demonstrates just how connected to our social and family lives our pet dogs have become.

This survey comes from Rover, which is the largest online network of dog sitters and dog walkers in the United States, boasting over 100,000 members. Using an Internet survey, Rover polled thousands of pet owners to determine their relationship to their dogs. Their findings are quite interesting.

To begin with dogs seem to occupy a position which is clearly a family member and also a best friend. In this survey almost all of the pet owners (94%) report that their dogs are part of the family.

79% said that they include their dogs in family moments like holiday cards and vacations. Apparently dogs are even included in some marriage proposals and over 1 out of every 4 dog owners have brought their pet with them on a date.

54% of these dog people claim that they would consider ending a relationship if they thought that their dog didn’t like their partner.

The emotional connection to a pet dog shows up, not just in people’s expressed emotions, but in their actions, since 65% of dog owners say that they take more photos of their dogs then of their friends or families, and 29% say that they post more pictures of their dogs on social media than any other individual (including themselves).

56% of dog owners say that they celebrate their dogs birthday and 39% of them admit that they have bought something personalized for their dog.

The link between dogs and their owners is such that concerns and anxieties sometimes creep in to the relationship. This shows up in the fact that 82% of dog owners worry about their dog when they are away from home.

47% of the survey respondents have admitted to leaving work sooner than they should in order to be with their dog or to let them out.

37% of dog owners admit to being saddened when they have to leave their dog at home.

Another indication of the depth of the connection between people and their dogs is that nearly half (47%) admit that they find it emotionally more difficult to leave their dog for a week then leave their human partner.

88% of dog owners have done things to make sure their dog doesn’t get lonely, including simple things like leaving the TV or the radio on, or more significant things like getting a second pet to keep their dog company.

Apparently this doesn’t fully alleviate any anxieties since, according to Google, nearly 3000 people each month search for an answer to the question “Does my dog love me?”

On the flip side, these dog people 74% say that they have used interactions with their own dog (or even watching videos of their dog) as a mood booster when they are having a rough day.

When it comes to social interactions dogs are extremely important. 56% of dog people admit that when they come home they say hello to their dog before they greet any other member of the family.

I was comforted to find that I was not alone in what I consider one of my pathological relationships with my own dogs. 51% of these dog people admit to singing to their dog and 24% of respondents say that they actually make up their own songs to sing to their dogs. I fear that I would have been in this group, despite the fact that I have terrible singing voice, and despite the fact that my wife has made it a condition of the continuation of our marriage that I should never sing in her presence.

Finally there is a lifestyle perk associated with dog ownership. 69% of the respondents to this survey believe that owning a dog has increased their leisure time physical activity. I certainly believe that I would not get half as much of the exercise that I do were it not for my dogs.

In some respects I saw the results of this survey confirmed just a couple of days ago. A TV news reporter was interviewing a family who had been rescued from flooding conditions not far from Montréal, Canada. The man was saying “We lost the house, but at least our family was saved.” At that point his wife joined the conversation to say “Thank God that our whole family is safe — both of us, our three kids, and both dogs!”

Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: Gods, Ghosts and Black Dogs; The Wisdom of Dogs; Do Dogs Dream? Born to Bark; The Modern Dog; Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History; How Dogs Think; How To Speak Dog; Why We Love the Dogs We Do; What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs; Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies; Sleep Thieves; The Left-hander Syndrome

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission


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