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Open AccessArticle

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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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Deceased.
Animals 2020, 10(5), 772; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10050772
Received: 7 February 2020 / Revised: 21 April 2020 / Accepted: 25 April 2020 / Published: 29 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Human-Animals Interactions, Animal Behaviour and Emotion)
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.
In the framework of the early prevention of problems in the owner–dog relationship, it is important to have a broad perspective on the development of this relationship over time, starting before people actually acquire a dog. People who currently (or previously) own(ed) a dog can rely on their experiences when considering a new dog, while this knowledge is unavailable to first time dog-owners. In this study, we explore how self-efficacy, social comparison, perceptions about the (dis)advantages of ownership and commitment to the dog (so-called social cognitive factors), problematic canine behaviors, perceived costs, and satisfaction with the dog change over time. We examine changes from the motivational phase of relationship development (before acquisition of the dog) into the experience phase (six and twelve months after acquisition of the dog). We explore if patterns are different in experienced (previous (n = 73) and current (n = 80)) versus unexperienced (first time (n = 30) dog owners. The respondents filled in three online questionnaires—once before and twice after acquisition of their dog. From T0 (before acquisition of the dog) to T1 (having the dog for six months) participants (especially those with no ownership experience) had to adjust their perceptions about dogs and dog ownership. Experiencing the relationship for an additional year (from T1 to T2) barely changed the social cognitive factors, satisfaction, and perceived costs. A small decline in problematic canine behaviors was present among the experienced dog owners between T1 and T2. To conclude, perceptions about dogs and dog ownership change over time, but after testing these perceptions with reality, they become stable after about six months. View Full-Text
Keywords: self-efficacy; dog ownership history; relationship; longitudinal; satisfaction; canine problematic behavior self-efficacy; dog ownership history; relationship; longitudinal; satisfaction; canine problematic behavior
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Bouma, E.M.C.; Vink, L.M.; Dijkstra, A. Expectations Versus Reality: Long-Term Research on the Dog–Owner Relationship. Animals 2020, 10, 772.

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