Expectations Versus Reality: Long-Term Research on the Dog–Owner Relationship
Department of Social Psychology, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, University of Groningen, 9712 CP Groningen, The Netherlands
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Received: 7 February 2020 / Revised: 21 April 2020 / Accepted: 25 April 2020 / Published: 29 April 2020
People who plan to own a dog have expectations about what this experience will be like and are initially in the motivational phase of dog-ownership. Their expectations about taking care of a dog and the benefits of this relationship determine if they will acquire a dog. Once they have acquired a dog, their expectations are tested against reality; they are then in the experience phase of dog-ownership. In this phase, the owner’s relationship with their dog develops, which may be pleasant and satisfying. However, when problems appear, the owner may experience dissatisfaction with their dog. In this study, 183 people who were planning to acquire a dog answered questions before and after acquisition of their dog. How their expectations and beliefs changed over time depended on whether the participants had experience with dogs (owning a dog presently, in the past, or never). In the first six months of ownership, especially for people with no prior experience with dogs, the owners had to adapt their expectations and beliefs. In the subsequent year, only a few differences based on dog ownership history were found. To conclude, the perceptions of dog ownership do change over time, but after testing such perceptions with reality, the perceptions become stable after six months.