Dogs can act as powerful social catalysts, making it easier for people to make social contact with each other. This effect is the same in different locations and with differences in the appearance of the dogs or handlers. Quite simply, people are motivated to make conversation if there is a safe topic available. Dogs appear to fulfil this role.
These were the findings of a study by Dr June McNicholas and Dr Glyn Collis of The University of Warwick , published on Tuesday 15 February 2000, in the British Journal of Psychology.
The researchers used two observers who went about their separate daily outdoor routines either alone, or accompanied by a dog trained to ignore passers-by so it would not initiate social contact. One of the participant observers was sometimes smartly dressed and at other times scruffy. Being in the company of a dog increased all social interactions, no matter what the appearance of the dog or the handler.
"This may help us understand why pet owners are frequently reported to be healthier than non-owners," said Dr McNicholas. "It may be that increased casual social contact can increase feelings of well-being, provide companionship and a sense of social integration".
For further information contact:
Dr June McNicholas, Dept of Psychology,
University of Warwick, Tel: 024 76 523759
Dr Glyn Collis, Dept of Psychology,
University of Warwick, Tel: 024 76 523182
Further information about the above press release and all other media services at the University of Warwick can be obtained from:
Peter Dunn, Press Officer
Public Affairs Office
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL
Tel: 024 76 523708