Barking mad… Does speaking to their pet make dog-owners happier?

A new study aims to expand on previous research, which assessed dog owners’ tendencies to reveal certain thoughts, feelings and emotions to their pet versus their long-term partner.

The purpose of the new investigation is to examine any differences between the quality of life experienced by dog-owners and non-dog owners, while also looking at whether dog owners’ talk to their pet about things they aren’t willing to tell a human confidante.

In July 2014, preliminary results of research carried out by the University of Lincoln’s third-year undergraduate Aislinn Evans-Wilday revealed that women are far more likely to talk to their dog than their partner when they are feeling jealous and apathetic, although emotions of anger and fear were directed to partners.

Aislinn, who is now undertaking a Masters by Research within the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, is expanding the project to also look at how dog-owners’ quality of life differs from that of non-dog owners.

Aislinn said: “We are investigating whether dog owners behave differently to non-owners in terms of who they talk to about various topics, how satisfied there are with their quality of life and ultimately what role their dogs play in their confiding relationships.”

The wider aim is to determine whether any of the health benefits of dog ownership can be attributed to using the dog as a confidante.

Aislinn is looking for people to take part in an anonymous online survey here.

Participants don’t have to be a dog-owner to take part since the aim is to compare dog-owners to non-owners (you can own any other pets, or no pets at all). The only criteria is that you are over 18, have been in a relationship with your current partner for at least six months and have 20 minutes to spare. Only fully completed surveys can be used so please try and answer every question. Aislinn is also looking for dog-owners to come along to the University of Lincoln to take part in a short interview. If you would like to help her then get in touch via email to aevanswilday@lincoln.ac.uk

Survey to examine if dogs are man’s best friend

Would people rather reveal their feelings to their dog than their partners? This is the question being asked by a new research study.

A survey designed by a student from the University of Lincoln, UK, aims to assess dog owners’ tendencies to reveal certain thoughts, feelings and emotions to their dog versus their long-term partner.

Third year undergraduate Aislinn Evans-Wilday, who is carrying out the research mentored by Professor Daniel Mills within the School of Life Sciences, said: “The purpose of the study is to find out how close we are with our dogs and characterise the form of relationship we have with them. There may be differences between the sexes, but we really don’t know. Our initial response indicates we have more replies from women, so we really need more male responders to identify if this is or is not the case.

“It is well known that men and women tend to deal with stress in very different ways. Women typically talk more openly about all issues with friends whereas men tend to talk about positive emotions with partners, but keep negative problems bottled up. I have got two dogs myself and talk to them all of the time. It will be nice to see if other people do the same!”

The wider aim of the research is to look at how dogs could potentially be used to reach out to people in therapy sessions, similar to the benefits dogs can bring to partially sighted, blind and deaf people.

Aislinn added: “Previous research has shown that older people who live alone and own a dog have less human networks, but are not lonely. Dogs may provide some form of substitute for human company but it will be interesting to see in what ways they do this.”

If you would like to take part in the study, are currently married, in a civil-partnership or are in a stable, long-term relationship and own at least one dog, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/self-disclosurewithdogs

Both your human relationship and dog-ownership should have lasted at least six months.

The study ends on 31st December 2013 with the final results to be collated in April 2014.