Being informed about what owning a dog will ask of you, may be key to becoming a satisfied, happy dog owner, researchers from the Behavioural Ecology chair group of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) find. They surveyed over 900, often quite satisfied, dog owners. The dog owners with the highest dog ownership satisfaction levels experienced lower perceived costs, such as in the amount of money it costs to care for the dog or in it making a messier house. An association between visiting the dog school and being a highly satisfied dog owner was not found.
The findings, published by PLOS ONE, may contribute to countering irresponsible dog ownership, by addressing the need for soon to be dog owners to know, what becoming a dog owner will ask of them.
Little is known about what makes a dog owner a satisfied, happy dog owner. Therefore, factors were studied that are known to play a role in dog abandonment, often a consequence of dissatisfaction with the dog. The research team looked at how satisfied dog ownership related with factors such as perceived costs of dog ownership (as in costs and care effort), shared activities, emotional closeness and unwanted dog behaviour such as aggression and disobedience, as well as visiting a dog school, in 977 relatively satisfied dog owners.
Knowing what being a dog owner will ask of you more important than sharing activities
Low perceived costs, as in financial costs or needing to tidy the house more, related most strongly to being highly satisfied with dog ownership. Highly satisfied dog owners seemed unbothered by hairs or mud in the house. Other studied factors, such as owner and dog sharing activities, related less strongly.
Visiting the dog school did not relate to highly satisfied dog ownership
Unexpectedly, visiting the dog school did not relate to highly satisfied dog ownership. Nor did dog schools relate to an owner’s perceived costs of dog ownership. These outcomes were all the more surprising, as unwanted dog behaviour, such as biting and disobedience, did relate. Possibly a dog school’s quality plays a role here as for training aids the use of a correction chain did relate to lower satisfaction levels. This training aid has been controversial for quite some time, but is still taught to dog owners by some dog schools. The researchers stress that this study does not conclude that using a correction chain is causal to lower satisfaction levels. Other explanations are possible. Nevertheless, the study outcomes raise questions on the use of training aids and on how dog schools can increase their contribution to highly satisfied dog ownership.
More attention for maximum levels of dog ownership satisfaction can contribute to optimal owner-dog relationships. How an owner perceives the costs of owning the dog seems to play an important part in the relationship, partly related to the dog’s behaviour. Possibly, a well-informed start, knowing what becoming a dog owner will ask of you, is of utmost relevance for soon to be dog owners.