Self-disclosure with Dogs: Dog Owners’ and Non-dog Owners’ Willingness to Disclose Emotional Topics

Evans-Wilday, Aislinn and Hall, Sophie and Hogue, Todd and Mills, Daniel (2018) Self-disclosure with Dogs: Dog Owners’ and Non-dog Owners’ Willingness to Disclose Emotional Topics. Anthrozoos, 31 (3). pp. 353-366. ISSN 0892-7936

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2018.1455467

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Abstract

Many owners talk to their pets about a wide range of issues,
but there is very little research that has considered the content of this, or its
impact on owner wellbeing. Verbal disclosure brings a range of potential
health benefits, yet a number of factors may prevent individuals from
confiding in their partners or friends (confidants). As such, in some circumstances,
dogs may provide a more favorable alternative focus for disclosure.
In a survey, we assessed dog owners’ (n = 286) and non-dog owners’
(n = 64) self-reported willingness to talk to their dog (dog owners only), their
partner and their confidant. We used the Emotional Self Disclosure Scale
(ESDS) for non-dog owners, and an adapted version of this for dog owners:
Emotional Self Disclosure Scale–Dog Owners (ESDS -DO). Both dog owners
and non-dog owners demonstrated a greater willingness to disclose to
their partner than a confidant. For dog owners, their dog appeared to play
a similar role as their partner, with greater willingness to talk to their dog
about depression, jealousy, anxiety, calmness, apathy, and fear-related emotions,
compared with a confidant. When talking about jealousy and apathy,
dog owners reported greater willingness to talk to their dog than their partner
or a confidant, but between-group comparisons (dog owner vs non-dog
owner) revealed that dog owners and non-dog owners did not significantly
differ in their willingness to talk to their partner or confidant, suggesting
human relationships were not negatively affected by confiding to the dog.
Participant age and length of relationship with their partner did not affect
disclosure patterns for dog owners or non-dog owners. Males and females
showed different willingness to disclose to confidants, but not to dogs. The
results have implications for considering the value of dogs for human
psychological health.

Keywords:human animal interactions
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D990 Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects not elsewhere classified
L Social studies > L990 Social studies not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:31971
Deposited On:01 Aug 2018 09:20

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