WSU survey finds bond between humans and dogs strengthened by COVID-19
PULLMAN, Wash. — Researchers from Washington State University say COVID-19 is bringing people together with their four-legged friends “like never before.”
Experts, led in part by human-animal interaction expert Phyllis Erdman, surveyed dog owners to find how much social isolation and other stressers associated with the pandemic are influencing the bond between them and their pets.
Of the 4,105 dog owners surveyed, the vast majority reported their pets are playing a critical role in helping reduce feelings of depressions, anxiety and loneliness. Many respondents also said their pets were helping them maintain a regular schedule, cope with uncertainty, be compassionate towards themselves and find purpose in their lives.
“There was just an overall theme of hope,” Erdman said. “It wasn’t ‘Oh no, now I’m with this animal 24/7 and I have to take care of it!’ Rather, most people viewed their relationship with their pets as a reason to get up in the morning and as an opportunity for companionship during a lonely time.”
The majority of respondents reported having less social support from other humans during the pandemic than before and that their bond with their animal was strengthened as a result. Seventy percent of those surveyed reported spending more overall time with their dog as a result of the pandemic and 42.5 percent said they were walking their dogs more frequently.
“It seemed to us that it was a win-win for the people and for the dogs,” said Lori Kogan, professor of clinical sciences at Colorado State University. “The dogs are getting all these great additional walks and play time and the humans are getting a key source of social support.”
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