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Postcards May 2022 - Perks of Having Pets and the Similarities Compared to Humans

As we honor National Pet Month, let’s take a look at some of the keys and benefits of owning pets. As many of us know, some physical and emotional needs fulfilled by pet ownership include: physical activity, comfort contact, love, loyalty, and affection, and experience with loss if the pet is lost or passes away.

When we compare babies and pets…who wouldn’t agree that both – take over the bed, eat food off the floor, cry/whine/moan or even yell when they want something, are ALWAYS happy to see their owners/parents, and facing monsoon time when its bath time.

Most people now a days consider their pets to be members of their families. New research now suggests that dogs may be more like us than we thought. The Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona found that dogs and 2yr old children show similar patterns in social intelligence, even more so than children and chimpanzees when cooperative communication tasks were evaluated. They wanted to evaluate if there is a superficial similarity between kids and dogs or if there is a distinct kind of social intelligence that is seen in both species.

Another area of research by Lisa Horn, from the Vetmeduni’s Messerli Research Institute, Austria, and her colleagues has revealed that the relationship between dogs and owners is very similar to the bond between young kids and their parents. Dogs and children seem to share what is known as the “secure base effect”. This effect is seen in parent-child bonding as well as the bond between humans and dogs. This refers to the idea that when human infants interact with the environment, they use their caregivers as a secure base. The investigators were surprised to see that the animals were a lot less eager to work for food when their owners were not present than when they were. Researchers conclude that a caregiver’s presence is critical for a pet to act in a confident manner.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “a child who learns to care for an animal, and treat it kindly and patiently, may get invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way”. Children develop social skills by taking care of pets. Benefits of children owning pets include: contributing to the child's self-esteem and self-confidence by developing positive feelings towards pets, developing trusting relationships with others if they have a positive relationship with the pet as well as developing non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy. Different purposes served by pets include: 1) They can be safe recipients of secrets and private thoughts--children often talk to their pets, like they do to their stuffed animals. 2) They provide lessons about life, including reproduction, birth, illnesses, accidents, death, and bereavement. 3) They can help develop responsible behavior in the children who care for them. 4) They provide a connection to nature. 5) They can teach respect for other living things.

One blogger noted other commonalities between humans and people to include that both: experience the world consciously, maintain a social life, are clean, intelligent, have feelings, have self-perception, develop diseases, and remember faces.

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