Study Highlights Health Benefits of Owning
Dogs and Other Pets
By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin,
July 13, 2011 -- Pets improve the emotional
and physical well-being of their owners in their daily lives, a new study
Researchers say ordinary people -- whom they
call "everyday people" -- reap many significant rewards from having a relationship with faithful pets.
The series of three studies conducted by
researchers at Miami University in Ohio and Saint Louis University concluded
· Pet owners have greater self-esteem and are
less lonely than non-pet owners.
· Pet owners are more physically fit.
· Pet owners are more conscientious and more
Pet owners seem to be less fearful of the
hurdles of ordinary life.
Health Benefits of Pet
"The present work presents considerable
evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and
physically, by serving as an important source of social support," the
researchers say. "Whereas past work has focused primarily on pet owners
facing significant health challenges ... the present study establishes that
there are many positive consequences for everyday people who own pets."
"We observed evidence that pet owners
fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences,
than non-owners on several dimensions," study researcher Allen R.
McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio, says in a news release.
The researchers' work also indicated that pet
owners are just as close to key people in their lives as to their animals. This
suggests that relationships with pets did not get in the way or affect
pet-owners' relationships with other people.
Pet Ownership on the Rise
The studies included 370 participants. In one
study, 217 people answered surveys designed to show whether pet owners in the
group differed from people who didn't have pets in areas like personality type,
attachment style, and well-being.
A second study involved 56 dog owners and was
designed to determine whether pet owners benefited more when their animals were
perceived to meet their social needs.
The last of three studies involved 96
undergraduate pet owners who were asked to write about a time they felt
socially rejected. It found that writing about pets was as effective as writing
about people in helping to handle feelings of rejection.
Pet ownership has been rising for years. The
American Pet Products Manufacturers Association says about two-thirds of the
71.1 million American households have at least one pet, up from 56% in 1988.
The study is published online in the Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology
from New York Times, Life & Culture, June 29, 2011
More drivers are putting their dogs in seat
belts and other restraints as awareness increases that loose dogs in the car
can be distracting and dangerous.
The image of a happy dog hanging out of a car
window is hard to top. And it's tricky to convince people that their pets won't
mind being tethered or riding cooped up in a crate. (Convincing some pets to
buckle up can be tricky, too.)
With more pets traveling in cars, some animal
advocates and law enforcement agencies—as part of their campaign against
distracted driving—are pushing seat-belt harnesses, car seats and other
restraints for dogs. Most of the gear still gives dogs some freedom of movement
and a view out the window.
About 89% of pets traveling in cars last year
weren't secured properly, says Christina Selter, founder of advocacy group Bark
Buckle Up who collects national data from police and fire agencies. Still, it's
an improvement from 2008, when 98% were unsecured.
Currently, there are no
federal or state laws requiring pets be secured inside vehicles, Ms. Selter
In an accident, both people and pets are at risk
when the animals aren't restrained. "If you are going 50 miles per hour
and hit the brake, the pet then becomes a projectile in the car," says
Sheriff Patrick Perez in St. Charles, Ill. "It's a hazard to the animal
and to the occupants of the vehicle."
There are other perils to unsecured pets, such
as on accident scenes when a dog dashes into traffic or becomes aggressive
toward emergency workers aiding passengers.
Insurance providers Petplan and
Veterinary Pet Insurance say most auto claims with pets inside cars are related
to unrestrained animals leaping from a moving vehicle.
Sales of dog-travel products are rising. One
brand, Kurgo, hit $5 million in revenue last year, and company co-founder
Gordon Spater says sales of its $23 car harness, which straps around a dog's
body and attaches to a seat belt, have doubled annually since 2007.
Booster seats that hook around headrests and
keep small dogs tethered and off owners' laps are one of the top sellers at
Solvit Products. "At first I thought they were silly," says Judy
Clark Guida, owner of Banjo, a 17-pound cairn terrier who enjoyed riding
shotgun on his hind legs.
Even auto makers are pushing pet safety. Toyota
sells barriers, harnesses, and other travel products through its dealers. And
Volvo reports growing sales for their steel cargo barrier for wagons, which
keeps pets secured in the luggage area well away from drivers.
There are safety
issues for other drivers on the road as well. A recent AAA and Kurgo survey
shows more than half of drivers engage in distracting behavior with dogs while
driving, such as petting, and one-fifth let dogs sit on their lap.
Some state legislators and law-enforcement
officials are pushing for tighter regulations specific to pets traveling inside
cars. Hawaii bars drivers from holding animals in their lap or letting them be
close enough to interfere with the driver's control. A number of places,
including California, Virginia and Oregon, have introduced similar measures,
though so far none have been signed into law.