neighbors talk in the park

Human Animal Interaction

Dogs can help owners make new social connections

People get to know each other more often through pets than through children’s schools, according to a new study

Overall, the study found that pet owners are significantly more likely to meet new people in their neighbourhoods than non-pet owners. Around a quarter of those who met people through their pet said that this resulted in at least one new friendship rather than a mere acquaintance. Dog owners fare even better as they are five times more likely to get to know people in their neighbourhoods compared with other pet owners, with dog walking being one of the top five ways for people to meet new people. The study surveyed residents in three US and one Australian city and found many similarities when it comes to pets. For instance, in all four cities people got to know others in their neighbourhoods through pets more often than through children’s schools or community events. “We’re all guilty of being a little too fixated on our screen based devices these days, whether we’re walking and talking on the phone, texting or sending e-mails. Pets, and specifically dog walking, bring us out of the technology bubble and create opportunities for the kind of real interpersonal interactions that can lead to deep, human friendships,” said lead study author Associate Professor Lisa Wood from The University of Western Australia. The study involved a telephone based survey of over 2500 randomly selected adults aged 18 and over +from four cities, including: Perth (Australia); San Diego, CA; Portland, OR; and, Nashville, TN (US).

While making friends is not always easy, new research shows that pet ownership can improve the likelihood of forming new relationships, especially in local neighbourhoods. The international study, conducted by The University of Western Australia (Australia) in collaboration with the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition (UK) underscores the important role pets can play in helping humans build social relationships and support networks.