Pet owners are a positive influence on their colleagues and neighbours, according to a new study. Reports by the University of Western Australia and the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition have revealed that pet owners frequently have stronger ties to the local area than those without pets, regularly having a more cheerful outlook and can help with confidence and sociability.
“The notion that pets facilitate the ‘glue’ that holds society together, or ‘social capital’ goes beyond the more commonly investigated role of pets as a social icebreaker,” said Dr Lisa Wood, lead researcher. “We were interested in the extent to which pets facilitate social interactions and creates the ‘ties that bind’ communities together.”
Measuring factors such as helpfulness, friendliness, trust and how people choose to engage in the local community, the study has been recognised as the first of its kind to examine the social effect of pets internationally. The results across countries consistently showed that those with pets were more likely to be more confident and sociable with others compared to those without an animal companion.
Although pets in general were found to increase community involvement, dog walkers saw the biggest improvement as people were encouraged to go outside and socialise with other dog walkers. Naturally friendly with other dogs and people alike, owning a dog means you are likely to become more comfortable with talking to new people, boosting self-esteem in both social and business situations. It can, however, have the adverse effect, with a third of Brits choosing to skip work to look after their pets.
“Pet ownership brings health and social benefits and there is a growing call for the societal impact of pets to be taken seriously,” said Sandra McCune, HAI Scientific Leader of Waltham. “The study adds further support to this agenda and for establishing ‘pet-friendly’ cities, towns and accommodation. The availability of parks and open spaces suitable for dog walking is essential for pet well-being, and for people to fully experience the benefits of pet ownership.”