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

Cat and dog conference to delve into the worlds of our favourite pets

The effects of cat predation on other species and the view that dog owners have improved health when compared with non-owners are just two topics to be discussed at an international conference.

The fourth Canine Science Forum and the first Feline Science Forum will be held between 14th and 18th July, 2014 at the University of Lincoln, UK.

Animal behaviour and cognition experts, from the UK, USA, Australia and Argentina will give keynote speeches over the five days.

Lincoln PhD student and co-organiser of the conference, Prarom Sriphavatsarakom, said: “It is a great opportunity for Lincoln to host the 2014 Canine Science Forum, the leading international dog-science focused meeting. As we have seen from the past three meetings, Forum has been successful in bringing together canine scientists from different study fields to meet, share the latest knowledge and establish networks for collaboration.

“We will also be introducing a parallel meeting devoted entirely to cats, the Feline Science Forum, partly because we have so much feline research going on at Lincoln. We hope this will be a unique research-focused event that will gather feline scientists from around the world. These events will consolidate Lincoln’s position on the map as one of the world leading research centres for companion animal science and will help showcase our existing expertise in canine and feline science.”

As part of the Feline Science Forum, Dr Marcello Ruta, from the University of Lincoln, UK, will look at the evolution of the cat – specifically that of biting performance.

Dr Rebecca Thomas, from the University of Reading, UK, will then speak on the effects of domestic cat predation on wildlife.

Urban cat populations can attain very high numbers, generating concerns that they may negatively affect prey populations and leading to calls for their management.

Dr Mariana Bentosela, from the National Research Council (CONICET), Argentina, will speak about domestic dogs’ communication responses towards humans and Dr Hayley Christian, from the University of Western Australia, will present a talk on the contribution of canine companions to human health and physical activity.

This presentation will offer evidence of the human health and physical activity benefits of pets, summarise what we know about the motivators and barriers to owners walking with their dog, provide direction for future intervention research and highlight the potential of dog walking as a strategy for health promoting programs and policy.

Other keynote speakers include Professor Clive Wynne from the University of Florida; Professor Benjamin Hart from the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California; and Dr John Finarelli from University College Dublin.

Both the Canine Science Forum and the Feline Science forum will be held at Lincoln Performing Art Centre (LPAC) within the University of Lincoln, Brayford campus.

For more information and to register go to www.csf2014.com or e-mail csf2014@lincoln.ac.uk