A newly released study carried out by Dogs Trust has revealed that around eight in ten owners said companionship for themselves was a reason they got a dog.
The research, which involved collecting data from a large number of respondents (8,050 current and 2,884 potential dog owners completed the survey), sought to explore owners’ motivations for acquiring dogs.
Other popular reasons to get a dog were to help a dog in need, which had been the motivation for half of current owners(ii), and many current and potential owners wanted a dog to encourage them to exercise, with nearly three quarters of potential owners giving this as their reason.
Katrina Holland and Rebecca Mead, researchers at Dogs Trust who led the study, said: “Despite the huge popularity of dogs in the UK, there is a lack of published evidence exploring exactly why people get dogs. As the UK’s leading canine charity, we wanted to address this gap and, while there are no big surprises from what we found, we’re really glad to have some solid evidence about why people choose to bring a dog into their life.”
Commonly mentioned dog qualities included their ‘loving’ and ‘loyal’ nature and some participants distinguished dogs’ roles and qualities from those of other pets, including cats, highlighting the distinct kind of companionship they offer.
People who had previously owned a dog referred to this experience as a motivating factor for getting a dog again, with prior ownership a reported influence for around three quarters of potential owners. For others, prior experiences of meeting dogs contributed to their decision, with around a quarter of current owners saying this had influenced them.
Three broad themes emerged from the analysis:
- Self-Related Motivation – Participants highlighted various ways in which they perceived dogs – or aspects of dog ownership – to benefit owners and enrich their lives. Many participants referred to valued aspects of human–dog relationships and interactions, including companionship or friendship.
- Social-Based Motivation – Some reported reasons for getting a dog could be categorised as being influenced by others – either human or dog. In some cases, these social-based motivations reflected a desire to benefit others.
- Dog-Related Positive Affect-Based Motivation – Many participants expressed positive feelings towards dogs and this study’s quantitative data confirms the potentially important role of previous experiences of owning or meeting dogs in motivating the decision to acquire one.