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Why Do We Like Dogs?

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I was asked to give a presentation to a graduate physiology class on the effect of dogs in the home at different human developmental stages. While researching for this subject I found many delightful facts from recent behavioral studies. I couldn't wait to share the information and see if you come to the same conclusion as I did.

Do people like dogs? This question is easy to answer by looking at statistics that show dog owners' behaviors.

  • There are 74 million owned dogs in the US.
  • The average is 1.8 dogs per household totaling over 41 million households.
  • 50 percent of dog owners buy Christmas gifts for their dogs.
  • 70 percent of dog owners call themselves mommy, daddy or parent to their dogs. * When household budgets are cut women are least likely to give up manicures and reduce the quality of their dog's food to save money.

Those of us who are among the 41 million dog owners do not find these statistics unusual. But have you ever thought seriously about what dogs actually do for people? Owing a pet can affect the quality of life at every stage of human development.

Infant/Toddlers

With the proper supervision, pets enrich the environment of infants. By doing so children show: improved cognitive development, increased stimulation to their immune system (resulting in less dermatitis and allergies), and they learn compassion and responsibility toward animals.

Pre-adolescent/Adolescents

Adolescents show: increased self-esteem, positive communication skills, and responsibility and compassion toward animals. Studies show improved social interactions and higher scores on empathy and pro-social scales.

Adults/Middle-aged

They offer companionship for single adults. For young adults they provide practice for parenting skills, and they fill the empty nest loneliness by substituting for children in childless households.

Seniors

Aging seniors receive much needed companionship. They show greater independence while sustaining a purposeful life. Pets promote social interaction encouraging a more active life.

Disabled/Disadvantaged

Trained service dogs provide independence. They increase self-esteem and provide a venue for social interaction improving social skills. For many they offer psychological stability.

In addition there are many beneficial health effects that are related to having a close relationship with a pet:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Increase illness survival rate
  • Fewer doctor visits
  • Improved ability to cope with stress/illness/tragedy
  • Assistance in fighting depression
  • Minimizing tension between family members
  • Help prevent heart disease

Having a pet can be a beneficial symbiotic relationship that we are just beginning to understand. But the question remains: WHY do people really like dogs?

My theory is that dogs fulfill our most basic needs for validation and affection. In other words, the need to be right (dogs never tell us we're wrong) and the need to be loved (they offer unconditional affection). Or do they?

In my experience, a dog doesn't do anything unconditionally! But we perceive they do and that is what is important. Our perception of their forgiving, honest nature allows us to love them unconditionally. And, anything that increases our ability to love has got to be a good thing.

Eleanor Scheidemann,CEO The Dog Lady, Inc. and President of Last Chance for Love Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation, Inc. has over ten years experience as a professional dog trainer. Her company provides hundreds of dog owners each year with obedience training, behavior modification and problem solving. She works actively with rescue groups by rehabilitating dogs that would otherwise be considered unadoptable. This company is about more than just dog training; it is about everything "dog". Eleanor, "The Dog Lady" is more than just a dog trainer. You are sure to find her opinions on dog training matters both educational and entertaining.

Eleanor encourages everyone to visit her dog training site and the rescue site at lclrr.org to see how YOU can make a difference in the world of animals and recieve your free dog training ebooks.

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Contact the Author

Eleanor Scheidemann
Dog Training & Problem Solving
trainme@thedoglady.org
Eleanor Scheidemann's web site

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