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Good news for dog owners! People with pooches more likely to feel loved during pandemic

James Martin introduces his dog on Saturday Morning

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Lockdowns introduced in response to the pandemic raised important questions about how people could best deal with the psychological problems resulting from isolation. According to a new US study, dog owners coped much better with certain aspects of the pandemic than non-dog owners.

More than 1,500 people (half of them dog owners, the other half not) responded to survey questions designed to gauge levels of happiness, anxiety, depression and perceived social support.

The results showed that owners were more likely to feel loved and valued during the pandemic.

They also found that owners had “significantly lower depression scores”.

A distinction of the species of dogs owned was not made.

Dog owners who also owned other pets were excluded from the study to prevent an overlap of findings.

Researchers from Nestlé Purina Research in St Louis, Missouri, said: “Taken together, our results suggest that dog ownership may have provided people with a stronger sense of social support.

“[This] in turn may have helped buffer some of the negative psychological impacts caused by the Covid pandemic.”

Despite these positives, there was no difference in anxiety scores between those with and those without dogs.

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Happiness scores were also the same between the two groups.

The non-owners surveyed were labeled as “potential dog owners”.

They were noted as being very or extremely interested in owning a dog at some time.

The study did not look into the quality of the relationship between people and their pets, but its authors noted that this could form the basis of future research.

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They said: “Different pet relationship scales may tap into different aspects of the human-pet relationship.”

They also suggested that those with dogs with higher degrees of perceived social support might already receive love and support from elsewhere.

Seventy percent of owners in their study said they benefitted fro high social support from family and friends.

But it is worth noting that Government-imposed lockdowns during the pandemic prevented proper social interaction from occurring over extended periods of time, whereas the interaction of dog owners with their pooches will most likely have remained consistent throughout.

The study’s authors also noted that enough previous research backs their findings to give them some clout.

Future research, they said, should focus on people with low social support and include owners with differing dog attachment levels.

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