That the relationship shared by a pet and its owner is symbiotic in nature and mutually rewarding is a well known fact. Psychological research has probed into the depths of this bond over the years and attempted to explain the dynamics underlying it, which has in turn led to quite a few interesting results and revelations about the owner. Did you know that the kind of pet you choose says an awful lot about your own self? Or that pets are the key to long term happiness and good health, proven scientifically?
Of the large number of studies conducted on the choice of dog-breeds and the human personality, one of the most well known is the survey conducted by Lance Workman and his colleagues, who assessed 1,000 dog owners via an online questionnaire on behalf of the British Kennel Club. The study served to measure people on the big five traits of personality; agreeableness, extroversion, conscientiousness, intelligence and neuroticism (emotional stability). Dogs were grouped according to the Kennel Club norms; gun dogs (like the Labrador or Golden Retriever), hounds (such as the greyhound), pastoral breeds (German shepherds and collies), terriers (for example the Staffordshire bull terrier), toy dogs like Chihuahuas, utility breeds like bull dogs and working breeds like the Doberman.
Even Sherlock Holmes had acknowledged the fact that the manner and personality of a dog are in many ways a product of the owner’s personality. The above mentioned survey serves to prove exactly that. They found the most extroverted people owned pastoral or utility breeds, while those who were most agreeable owned toy dogs or gun dogs. The most emotionally stable people tended to own hounds. The authors found that toy dog owners were also the most imaginative people. Those who scored higher than average on intelligence usually own working dogs.
The research findings also dealt a blow to the existing stereotypes. For instance, they illustrated that owners of toy dog breeds measured high on openness creativity and intelligence instead of being air-brained as is popularly believed. In fact, even Einstein owned a Pomeranian which would be classified as a toy dog. Similarly, terrier-owners turned out to be more agreeable than the rest. Workman concluded that while searching for a pet, people look for something in them that they can relate to, a reflection of their own self, even if they do so subconsciously; much like the search for romantic partners. Pets also seem to reveal certain personality traits in people that are otherwise elusive.
The discussion has so far been restricted to dogs alone but choice of cats or other animals as pets may have just as much to say about one’s personality, right down to one’s favorite Beatle. A university of Texas study found that people with a weakness for felines tend to be more independent, creative, adventurous and somewhat more prone to anxiety. However, there are a few common traits found both in cat and dog people, viz. both kinds of people like to talk to animals, feel close to nature and are generally optimists.
The dog or cat you own says a lot about the kind of person you are. In fact, you choice of pet can even determine your salary or career position! Studies have shown that top level employees like CEOs or senior VPs are likely to be dog owners while those with huge a salary-six figures or more- tend to own snakes or other reptiles. Bird owners seem to be the ones most satisfied with their jobs. Fish owners appear to be the most engaging, optimistic, hopeful and introverted.
The effect that pets have on their owner’s health is an issue that has been much talked about and been the basis of a number of discussions. It has been found that pets, especially dogs, serve to meet an individual’s social needs whether or not human social support is plentiful in his or her life. This is to say, pets complement and not compete with the social support received by an individual. Pet owners in general have better psychological well-being.
Dogs have a profound impact on human health. A research conducted on the same issue by Serpell in 1991 involved two groups of people getting a new pet (either a cat or a dog), the behavior of who was compared to that of a control group who had not acquired any pet, over a ten month period. The control group did not undergo any significant change in their physiological or psychological well-being during this time. However, the pet-owning group, especially the ones who owned dogs, reported lee minor health problems and increased overall well-being. In a similar study conducted on 1000 British dog owners, it was found that 55% of the subjects reported feeling “more relaxed and less stressed” while 44% felt “happier and more optimistic” after spending time with their pet. In fact, studies have even proven that animal assisted therapy is more useful in the prognosis of mental disorders. Researchers compared the results of a self-reported anxiety scale after patients had received animal-assisted therapy and traditional therapy. The researchers found that animal-assisted therapy reduced anxiety levels for hospitalized patients with various psychological disorders, but traditional therapy only reduced anxiety levels for those hospitalized with mood disorders.
It is the bond you share that matters. It is quite clear that the key to a large part of your happiness lies with your pets and it is your responsibility to look after this source of your well-being as much for your own good as theirs. It may be amusing to read about how pets become a choice that can go so long a way to determine your behavior and personality, but the conclusions given above can be more misleading than accurate despite all the research work. Notwithstanding what your pet says about you, it is the bond that you share with it that matters above everything.