Page 1

How Dogs Effect Their Owner’s Identity and Increase Wellbeing Written by Brooke Graham

Written for Rachael Hunter COMM2213 April 6, 2018


ABSTRACT The dog-human relationship has proven to provide a positive impact on the lives of many across the globe. From the way they shape home lives, to the unique bond and attachment we feel, pet dogs indeed have the ability to change who we are as human beings. While physical health benefits have been deeply looked into in the past, this report will instead direct the focus to how we further develop our identities due to our companions. This report will touch on home making practices, attachment and bond between the human and dog, how our pet dogs have the power to advance our true selves, and various other positive effects. Research was found through the EBSCO database using peer-reviewed, English language and full text articles. All articles used in this report obtain different ways of concluding results, such as interviews, writing diaries, or surveys, all from whom were dog owners. From here, it is concluded that our pet dogs have the ability to further change one’s identity through strengthening relationships, giving their owners a sense of non-judgmental and loving comfort, shaping the routines of their owners in further making the house feel as a home, and providing a sense of friendship. It can be recommended that an individual seek the presence of a dog throughout their life time due to numerous wellbeing benefits. In addition, it can also be recommended that future research is approached with the angle of direct effects on the human brain, with methods that better the understanding of the varying effects.


TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT……………………………………………………………………………………… i INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………………………. 1 METHODS…………………………………………………………………………………….. 1-2 DISCUSSION……………………………………………………………………………………. 2 Home Making Practices…………………………………………………………………2-3 Attachment and Bond to our Pet Dogs ………………………………………………...... 3 Direct Effects on us as Humans………………………………………………………….. 4 Changing a Humans Identity……………………………………………………………4-5 CONCLUSION………………………………………………………………………………….. 5 RECOMMENDATIONS………………………………………………………………………... 5 REFERENCES………………………………………………………………………………….. 6


INTRODUCTION From as early as 32,000 years ago, dogs have been roaming this earth. “Dogs have not only offered love and affection, but worked side-by-side with their human counterpart for centuries” (Smith, 2018). “The last fifty years have seen dogs increasingly drawn into the home as family members” (Power, 2008, p. 535), allowing pet dogs to be seen as attachment figures. “What’s interesting about this, is that dogs evolved alongside humans, so they are able to connect with us on a deeper level than many animals today” (Watson, 2016). From the beginning, the human species have created a special bond with dogs, constructing the way a home functions, and how we, as individuals, view ourselves. “A tenuous and contingent relation that is made” (Power, 2008, p. 536), more-than-human families have been proven to change our emotions and behaviours as human beings. The purpose of this report is to examine the various ways our pet dogs impact our lives. It will explore the notion of home making practices, emotional and mental health benefits, and how the human-dog relationship has changed the individual. It will also tackle the concept of the humandog attachment/bond, the uniqueness of human-dog interaction, and the effects on the human (such as a sense of security and source of safe haven). This report will begin by providing an overview on home making practices, and how humans view their pet dogs as a vital part of their home. It will then move into the concept of attachment and bond that lie between the human and dog. From there, the effect of dogs on human beings will be further explored, and conclude with how these effects have the ability to change a human being’s identity.

METHODS Research used for this report was found through the EBSCO database using English-language, peer-reviewed and full text articles. A publication date was not used, allowing for a wider range of articles. The following search terms and words were used: “pet dogs” “attachment”, “dogs” “human character”, “dogs” “human personality development”, and “dogs” “attachment” and “humans”. Research for this report was gathered from January 25 – March 25, 2018. Unfortunately, research on this topic was extremely limited and difficult to find. Specific information regarding the effect dogs have on the human brain, in further changing one’s identity, was non existent. Research articles selected for this report touched on various aspects of the human-dog relationship, such as attachment and creating a home. However, each article brought in a different perspective. Some articles consisted of interviews with pet owners, surveys with pet owners, or participating pet owners recording diaries over a nine-month period. In addition to the academic research, two credible media sources were also used for this report. Both articles were found on March 23, 2018. Key terms used in Google were: “dogs and


humans” and “dogs and human relationship facts”. Each reiterated many points found from the research component; however, both added depth and potency to the report. Google was also used to find one academic research article, belonging to ScienceDirect on March 23, 2018. The phrase used to find this article was: “dog and human facts”.

DISCUSSION Home Making Practices Throughout the research selected for this report, all touched on the notion of home making practices, in other words, “making a house a home”. Though this research brought about different facts, all came back to the idea of how this impacts the owner in further creating one’s identity. In an article written by Power (2008), 22 dog owners took part in a project about how animals shape home making practices. This consisted of the owners recording diaries for an average of a nine-month period. Although all owners had their own unique experiences with their pet dog, all recorded similar results: The idea of ‘family’ was central to the ways that participants related to their dogs. It described a close relationship made through cohabitation in a family home, and was sustained by rules and routines that drew people and dogs into familiar relations. (Power, 2008, p. 551) Power (2008) explains how the study of more-than-human families have led to shaping our home lives: “They urge a re-thinking of human-animal family relations that is attentive to the everyday, embodied encounters between people and animals and suggest that animals may actively shape the ways that family and home are lived in the everyday” (p. 537). Home making is often described as a combination of a sense of belonging, creating routines, and informal learning. The more active participants pet dogs become in their owners’ everyday lives, the more they shape their routines. Throughout this process, humans begin to familiarize themselves with what an ‘every day’ consists of, drawing back to how pets become a vital role in home making. In addition, being the primary caregiver to dogs creates the sense of belonging for both pets and their owners, further touching on what it means to make a house a home. Power (2008) emphasizes that “…practices of family and home are co-constitutive [and] these geographies of family prompt this paper’s concerns with home as a key space through which more-than-human family relations are negotiated” (p. 538). Power (2008) further explains “Over time dogs were recognized as active in family-making as they formed routines with and around existing family members” (p. 541). Many dog owners refer to their pet as children, while some describe them as siblings for pre existing children living in the home. This description indicates the affection and significance a pet can acquire in a household. Power (2008) justifies that


As part of this description participants’ emphasized dogs’ unique needs, and recounted their efforts to meet these requirements. These activities, which included grooming, walking and playing, increasingly became part of family and home life as participants balanced needs of diverse family members. (p. 541)

Attachment and Bond to Pet Dogs Payne, Bennett, & McGreevy, (2015) describe that “The dog-human dyad is believed to involve attachment bonds similar to those that characterize human caregiver-infant relationships” (p. 72). This is proof that humans and dogs create a bond that directly affect the exchange and identity of both members. Payne, Bennett, & McGreevy, (2015) agree “An attachment bond is a close, emotional relationship between two individuals” (p. 72). Creating bonds with pet dogs have a direct impact on their owners as not only primary caregivers, but as human beings. People are defined by the relationships they build, and the bonds they create. Nagasawa, Mogi, & Kikusui, (2009) explain that not all animals have the ability to develop such a close and extraordinary relationship: “Compared with other domesticated animals, dogs have developed a special relationship with humans, and can be considered as the only species to have established a niche for themselves in human society” (p. 209). This suggests that humans develop positive emotions when caring for our dogs. This bond is strengthened over time, however, it can be developed and powered from the simplicity of things such as walking, playing or openly spending down time with our pet. Nagasawa, Mogi, & Kikusui, (2009) explain “Attachment or social bonding can have a positive influence on the psychological and physiological aspects of human beings” (p. 210). The bond that humans possess with dogs not only helps in creating a unique individual, but can relate back to numerous benefits: “As a result, it is said that not only owning dogs, but also the degree of attachment that humans have towards dogs, is linked to human health, wellbeing, and the development of positive feelings” (Nagasawa, Mogi, & Kikusui, 2009, p. 210). Although many benefits for human beings are created from this bond, Nagasawa, Mogi, & Kikusui, (2009) explain that it can indeed go both ways: “However, it was found that when dogs faced difficulties, they immediately looked to their owners for help” (p. 211). Part of making a bond with an individual is trust and reliance. Attention seeking behaviours found from pet dogs are a sign of dependence and love, further driving the meaningful bond. After creating a close bond with a pet, attachment can come with it. Kurdek (2009) explains further what attachment between people and their pets are based on: Ainsworth (1991) described attachment figures as being defined by four features. Their physical nearness and accessibility are enjoyable (proximity maintenance); they are missed when absent (separation distress); they are dependable sources of comfort (secure base); and they are sought to alleviate distress (safe haven). (Kurdek, 2009, p. 439) All four features drive our attachment towards our pet, bettering the relationship and further constructing one’s identity.


Direct Effects on Humans While continuing to grow and further form a relationship with pet dogs, humans are constantly being effected by their presence or interactions. Many pet owners expressed the importance of their dogs, further addressing the four main features of attachment: safe haven “(e.g., “When I am feeling bad and need a boost, I turn to my dog to help me feel better”), secure base (e.g., “I can count on my dog to be there for me”), proximity maintenance (e.g., “I like having my dog near me”), and separation distress (e.g., “I miss my dog when I am away from him or her”). (Kurdek, 2009, p. 441) It is certain that pet dogs have the ability to deeply effect human beings. Being able to turn to companions is something human beings often feel more comfortable doing as opposed to with a friend or a family member. “It is possible that the unconditional nature of support that pet dogs provide is key to dogs being regarded as a reliable source of emotional comfort” (Kurdek, 2009, p. 444). This close and intimate tie of the human-dog relationship helps individuals in becoming who they are as people. Changing a Humans Identity A human’s identity is shaped by beliefs, values, qualities, and relationships. It is a sense of self, made up by all the things individuals stand for. It is a complex and convoluted set of attributes that make up who they are. With this in mind, Cavanaugh, Leonard, & Scammon, (2008) reiterates how relationships are a key way of defining people: “Closeness in the human–dog relationship may influence well- being. Research in psychology shows that in close relationships individuals regard aspects of the partner as aspects of self (Aron et al., 1992) to varying degrees” (p. 472). Humana are curious. They are constantly looking for new ways to function in society, and discover who they truly are as individuals. With this being said, Cavanaugh, Leonard, & Scammon, (2008) write “Further examination of human–pet relationships seems likely to reveal important insights about humans” (p. 477). Humans may take advantage of certain animal personalities to cultivate, complement, or fill voids in their own sense of identity. A close, extended relationship with a pet may allow a person to become more comfortable with his or her own identity. Growing comfort with self and learning to build satisfying relationships with a canine companion may even help individuals develop skills to navigate future human relationships. (Cavanaugh, Leonard, & Scammon, 2008, p. 477) In addition, further exploration of one’s self is sought through the human-dog bond: Relationships provide a training ground for learning about self. Relationships with dogs may facilitate exploration of self in a number of ways. This research suggests that relationships appear more satisfying when dogs bring more of particular personality facets to the relationship than do humans. (Cavanaugh, Leonard, & Scammon, 2008, p. 477)


Cavanaugh, Leonard, & Scammon, (2008) further analyze If, as many contend, people keep pets for companionship, love, affection, and company (Serpell, 2003), then the inclusion of a dog as a member of the household may lead not only to greater relationship satisfaction but may also positively impact a person's wellbeing. (p. 476) The reason(s) human beings have pets in their lives can be different amongst person to person; In this context however, the positive outcomes, such as improving one’s wellbeing, is a gain. Cavanaugh, Leonard, & Scammon, (2008) say “Long-term relationships with ever-loyal dogs may provide greater stability, comfort, and security, generally enhancing human well-being over time” (p. 476). According to Cavanaugh, Leonard, & Scammon, (2008), Most pet owners, however, do not regard their pets as simple consumption objects or tools for human benefit (Holbrook et al., 2001). Rather, for most pet owners, their pets are an integral part of their families and even contribute to sense of self (Sanders, 1990). The unique, intimate, emotional bonds and relationships that people share with their pets give important meaning to their lives. (p. 470) CONCLUSION This report outlined the effects that pet dogs have on their owners. A vital role in the home making practice, discovering the attachment and bond that lie between human and dog, and having the capability to forever change one’s identity through relationship building were all deeply looked into through this report. It is clear that obtaining a close, emotional and loving relationship with pet dogs have nothing less then positive outcomes and feelings on both members of the human-dog dyad. It can be concluded that having a pet dog can lead to numerous benefits whether they be social, mental, emotional or physical. RECOMMENDATIONS Research drawn form this report expresses a clear benefit to owning a pet dog. Though these benefits can vary from one individual to the next, it can be recommended that the presence of a dog in one’s life can bring about wellbeing and help to shape one’s identity. In addition, it is recommended that further methods for future research be done in a contrasting measure. Impending research could potentially bring about varying methods and angles. For example, conducting research based on the direct effect of dogs on the human brain. Furthermore, this could be done by surveys and/or interviews with dog owners over a much longer period of time, such as two years.


REFERENCES Cavanaugh, L. A., Leonard, H. A., & Scammon, D. L. (2008). A tail of two personalities: How canine companions shape relationships and well-being. Journal of Business Research, 61(5), pp. 469-479. Kurdek, L. A. (2009). Pet Dogs as Attachment Figures for Adult Owners. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(4), pp. 439-446. Nagasawa, M., Mogi, K., & Kikusui, T. (2009). Attachment between humans and dogs. Japanese Psychological Research, 51(3). Payne, E., Bennett, P. C., & McGreevy, P. D. (2015). Current persepectives on attachment and bonding in the dog-human dyad. Psychology Research and Behaviour Management, 8, pp. 71-79. Smith, F. &. (2018). Doctors Foster and Smith Your Trusted Source for Complete Pet Care. Retrieved from drsfostersmith.com: https://www.drsfostersmith.com/pic/article.cfm?articleid=1201 Watson, C. (2016, September 05). Man's Best Friend: The Science Behind the Dog and Human Relationship. Retrieved from info.thinkfun.com: http://info.thinkfun.com/stemeducation/mans-best-friend-the-science-behind-the-dog-and-human-relationship

Brooke business comm paper final  
Brooke business comm paper final  
Advertisement