Does the Household Pet Provide Any Real Value?
We've all heard the perfectly wonderful stories about service and assistance dogs that help in the rehabilitation of the blind or persons with physical challenges. Or the rescue dogs that hunt for survivors in disasters. But, such dogs are selected and trained for these very worthy endeavors. And we applaud all organizations like Guide Dogs for the Blind and Search Dog Foundation and Land of PureGold Foundation. More power to them, and God's blessings on their faithful contributors.
But what about the 62% of American households that own "plain old" pets, upon which is spent $45 billion annually? All those pet owners who just happen to have dogs or cats for their own family enjoyment, what else do they get? Other than companionship, do the owners derive any particular benefits from owning their "regular" pets?
Fanfare for the Common Dog
Interesting answers about our everyday pets have come out of a recent study of pet owners in a joint project by Allen R. McConnell from Miami University and Christina M. Brown from St. Louis University. The results were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by the American Psychological Association under the title, "Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership." The study was described as an evaluation of "whether 'everyday people' enjoy positive consequences from pet ownership and the social needs they might fulfill."
The study focused on three separate test groups made up of some 370 pet owners of varying ages, income levels ($65K - 200K annual mean), and predominantly (284) female. According to the results of the three tests, "pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely . . . than non-owners." Further, dogs provided a source of social needs fulfillment and made a significant and unique contributions to well-being above and beyond the value of owners' human sources. And finally, they found that one’s pet was every bit as effective as one’s best friend in staving off social needs deficits in the wake of personal rejection.Continued on the next page