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Are Dogs Set to Replace Therapists?

22 July 2014

UK - A new study suggests that women are more likely to talk to their dog than their partner when they are feeling jealous.

Canines also find themselves on the end of a rant when their female owners are feeling apathetic. Emotions of anger or fear, however, were more likely to be directed at their partners.

The survey has been designed by a student from the University of Lincoln, with the aim of assessing dog owners’ tendencies to reveal certain thoughts, feelings and emotions to their dog versus their long-term partner.

Third year undergraduate Aislinn Evans-Wilday said: “The purpose of the study is to find out how close we are with our dogs and characterise the form of relationship we have with them.

“It is well known that men and women tend to deal with stress in very different ways. Women typically talk more openly about all issues with friends, whereas men tend to talk about positive emotions with partners but keep negative problems bottled up.

"Research indicates that men only really confide in someone when they want a solution to a problem. Men talk in a hierarchy state and are always trying to gain the upper hand. Therefore, it may be they are willing to talk to dogs because they won’t get judged.”

The wider aim of the research is to look at how dogs could potentially be used to reach out to people in therapy sessions, similar to the benefits dogs can bring to partially sighted, blind and deaf people.

Aislinn added: “It’s my belief that by determining whether or not people are more or less willing to talk to their dog about certain feelings (particularly negative feelings) there is the potential that dogs could become a recognised tool for therapists to encourage patients to gets things off their chest.

"If possible I would like to expand this research even further to assess people’s willingness to confide in a dog that isn’t their own, such as a therapy dog, versus a figure such as a therapist.”

Participants over the age of 18 are invited to take part in the study if they are currently married, in a civil partnership or stable, long-term relationship and own at least one dog.

Both the human relationship and dog ownership should have lasted at least six months. Click here to complete the survey.

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