My recent Dog survey asked dedicated dog owners:
1.What is your dog, to you?
Your child/baby? Your best friend? A sibling? a life partner? Or is your dog simply a pet?
2. And how do you think your dog views you?
A parent? A best mate? A sibling? A life partner? Or simply a source of food?
Here we can see how 1,250 owners* view their dog and how they believe their dog views them…
How owners view their dogs
Perhaps it’s not too surprising that owners view their dog as their child (40.3) or their friend (34.2%), as most people who took this survey were dedicated owners (I only surveyed my networks). What does this mean for the human-canine relationship?
I speculated on our relationship with dogs a couple of years ago, in my blog post Your dog, Your baby. Many of us treat our dogs like children and when we look at the our relationships (the way we speak to dogs, what they understand), they are, in many ways, similar to a young child. Thus we nurture them, ensuring they are well fed, have the latest and greatest pet products and give them pats and cuddles.
For those of us who see our dog as our friend, we enjoy the company of our dog and the activities that we do together but possibly want to maintain some separation from family. Those who consider their dog to be simply a pet, maintain that separation to a much greater extent.
I was actually surprised that more people did not identify their dog as their life partner (4.5%) . Perhaps this is because the dog’s lifespan is short, compared to humans, and so several life partners are possible in the human’s lifetime. Or perhaps, given that most people (84.2%) who took this survey lived in households with two or more people, a human life partner was already in residence. When this was taken into consideration, single people household were more than twice as likely (11.2%) to view their dog as their partner.
How dogs view owners
Well, of course, we can never know exactly how dogs view us. Indeed, if they have any opinion at all. However, if we believed that our dogs have a very basic relationship with us, we would probably see ourselves as only a source of food for them. This, according to their owners, applied to only 6.2% of dogs.
Instead we believe that our dogs see us primarily as parents (35.9%) or friends (34.3%), probably echoing how we see our relationships with them.
Where we believe dogs differ in their perceptions of our relationships, is that more dogs view their owners as life partners (19.9%), again perhaps determined by the shorter lifespan of the dog and the feeling that the owner is the most significant person in the dog’s life.
The dog survey also asked owners if they loved, or liked their dog and if their dog loved them.
No matter how we consider our dog and how we believe they think of us, for almost all of us, the relationship is true LOVE!
Almost all owners (97.5%) admit to loving their dog. This love fest is not precisely equalled by our dogs, with only 85.9% of dogs loving us (in our beliefs). Of those dogs that do not love us, 13.2% at least like us. Whew!!
Do these results surprise you?
The dog survey is still open for dog owners to complete.
Summary of survey respondents*
*number of survey respondents at time of analysis
Dr Jo will present these findings and more at the Canine Science Forum 2016