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The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

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Kid’s Best Friend

Posted February 01, 2017 1:00 PM by MaggieMc

Last week, “A Dog’s Purpose” was released in theaters. The movie—which “shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love”—has gotten mixed reviews, and I haven’t seen it yet, but the commercials have been making me miss my old dog for weeks.

A recent study shows that I, and the 75% of “A Dog’s Purpose” viewers, might not be alone in our undying devotion to our childhood pets. The study, conducted by the University of Cambridge, highlighted “the importance of early adolescents’ pet relationships” as “participants derived more satisfaction and engaged in less conflict with their pets than with their siblings.”

At this point, you may be shaking your head in disappointment that the study came to what might be considered an obvious conclusion—one’s pet rarely participated in a rivalry, siblings, however, probably did. My dog, for one, was not known to bicker. Researchers believe the fact that “pets cannot understand or talk back,” may be “a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental,” allowing for levels of disclosure that might not be possible with a sibling.

According to Nancy Gee, Human-animal Interaction Research Manager at WALTHAM and a co-author of the study, understanding the “social support that adolescents receive from pets” may help us understand and promote the positive benefits of a pet’s influence during adolescence on “psychological well-being later in life.”

The study, which involved 77 12-year-olds, measured child-pet relationships using “a pet adaptation” of the Network of Relationships Inventory (NRI). The NRI traditionally assesses relationship characteristics “such as companionship, conflict, instrumental aid, satisfaction, antagonism, intimacy, nurturance, affection, punishment, admiration, relative power, and reliable alliance for each type of relationship.”

Researchers drew conclusions about the difference between male and female interactions with pets, finding that “girls reported more intimate disclosure, companionship, and conflict with their pet than did boys” despite both genders being “equally satisfied” with their pets. These findings seem to contradict previous research that found “boys report stronger relationships with their pets than girls do.” In addition, owners of dogs reported greater satisfaction than owners of other kinds of pets.

So, whether you liked “A Dog’s Purpose” or not, it seems that pets really do have the potential to live forever in our minds and emotions—if not through reincarnation.

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#1

Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/01/2017 3:39 PM

"Researchers drew conclusions about the difference between male and female interactions with pets, finding that “girls reported more intimate disclosure, companionship, and conflict with their pet than did boys”

Yes. Only a woman would get upset and have feelings of conflict with a animal over a one sided conversation or argument they obviously had to start and finish.

(unless the dog was the one that proved it was smart enough to just walk away at some point in the one sided argument. Then the dog won without ever saying a word.)

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#2

Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/01/2017 5:53 PM

"owners of dogs reported greater satisfaction than owners of other kinds of pets"

I can't see much interaction, or satisfaction, for owners of rattlesnakes.

Turtles are more aloof than cats.

I can see a good sheep dog or a roping horse giving satisfaction but, dogs are hands down the best companions of the animal kingdom.

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#11
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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/02/2017 7:03 PM

I don't know, I have 2 cats and my sons turtle.. My one cat I rescued from behind my shop at 2 days old, her mother was run over by a truck. I bottle fed her from that time and she is 7 years old now and

she is more important to me than my ex-wife. She was a month or so old by this picture, as you can see I was still getting up at 2am to feed her. I was a Zombie..

This is her today. Sleeping on my camo bedsheets (bachelor), she has to be in the bathroom with me when I take a shower. And she must sleep on my head when I am sleeping. Her whiskers bug me in the middle of the night as do mine, I currently have about a 8" beard and when I roll over one of us is waking the other up. I can't walk in the door without picking her up, after work. She is a true friend. When my phone rings, she talks to me, when my alarm clock goes off, she is all over me. I love my cat.

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#12
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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/02/2017 8:34 PM

That's awesome!

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#13
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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/04/2017 4:57 PM

You feed and take care of a dog and they think you are a god. You feed and take care of a cat and they think they are a god.

Christopher Hitchens.

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#14
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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/04/2017 4:59 PM

I feed and take care of my cat and he thinks he's a dog.

He's a bit dyslexic, you see.

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#15
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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/05/2017 1:55 AM

My cat thinks she is human.

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#3

Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/01/2017 5:56 PM

If you want a complex relationship with your pet, get a cat.

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#4
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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/01/2017 6:30 PM

Mine are pretty easy to work with. Not too demanding either.

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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/01/2017 7:05 PM

Once they've trained their owners, everything works just fine.

We've had as many as five in the house. Down to three now, since two of my daughters have each taken one with them when they moved out. Two of the remaining three will go to my oldest daughter in Texas when she gets a bigger place that can accommodate those and the two she has with her. My oldest daughter aspires to be a crazy cat lady someday. She's the one responsible for all the cats.

I grew up with cats and a dog. And all manner of other animals as well (reptiles, amphibians, rodents of various kinds, chickens, turkey). I like dogs but I think I prefer cats because cats are easier to care for, travel well, and in general are less demanding on their owners. We take our cats when we travel with our travel trailer or RV. They understand that there is more than one home and we can let them out without worry that they will run off. They're smart enough to stay on the gravy train.

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#6
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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/01/2017 8:52 PM

Herding cats is like managing programmers...

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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/02/2017 12:11 AM

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#8
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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/02/2017 8:40 AM

I wonder how they would do at herding Congress into doing something productive?

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#9
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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/02/2017 11:35 AM

The less government does, the better.

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Re: Kid’s Best Friend

02/02/2017 5:00 PM

I believe there is a well-known quote by Mark Twain to that effect . . .

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