Pets perk up people, there is no doubt. Many studies have shown that the dog, cat or hamster has a calming effect on their owners. Hospitals have started programs in which dogs serve as hospital ambassadors, routinely calling on patient rooms and corridors. The keepers will introduce each dog and give a little history on the animal. Interestingly, the cost that precedes its visit is one of the facts given. Each pet must receive a washing and sometimes grooming before they are allowed on the floors. This is quite costly, as the washing must be done for each visit.
In a study conducted by Megan Mueller, Ph.D., at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, 500 participants between the ages of 16-21 years were surveyed to see whether they had a relationship with a pet animal and to what extent that relationship was fashioned.
The young people were asked questions concerning their relationships to pets in five ways: connection, caring, character, competence and confidence. The results published in the journal, Applied Developmental Science, show that those young people who cared for an animal have stronger social relationships and connection to their communities.
The fact is that pets perk up their owners and add developmental positive contributions as well. In the study, it was found that the more closely the participant took care of a family pet, the better “contribution” score that subject received. This could mean taking part in community service, or helping a family member. Other factors brought out by the study were that those who were older and still taking care of a pet gained in confidence and in having a connection to others, with the added positive attribute of empathy towards others.
Although a causal relationship has not been established, there is a correlation between taking responsibility for a pet in childhood and being more connected with people and the community. Correlation does not imply causality. Very often, a researcher will claim a causal relationship when the correlation is due to a momentary coincidence or poor controls. Control groups are principal to the strength of findings.
The study is part of a longitudinal study conducted called the 4-H Study of Positive Development.
When it comes to confidence, it has also been shown by other investigations that horses can increase a person’s confidence in themselves and among others in society. In Surrey, England, a program called Heart of Confidence uses horse sense to help those with crises of confidence. They have anything from a two-day workshop, six-week progressive courses, to support groups in order to assist those who have fears and lack of confidence.
The Heart of Confidence instills confidence in the individual. As their website explains, “With horses, there’s no hiding. Horses have the ability to reflect to us our patterns of behaviour and to draw out exactly what we are thinking and feeling.”
Wendy Price, B.H.S.I.(T), Dip. Practical Metaphysics, M.S.E.C., B.R.C.P., and Reiki II Practitioner, has been working with horses and people for over thirty years. Jenni Winter, Certified Equine Assisted Coach, has been practicing since 2012 in order to give therapeutic benefit to the riders taking part in her courses.
Pets perk up people and the results are social connection, confidence and contribution to society.
By Lisa M Pickering