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The Facilitation of Social Interactions by Domestic Dogs
Research suggests that dogs can facilitate social interactions, which, in turn, may promote psychological health. This study explored the ability of dogs to facilitate social responses relative to other accompaniments and investigated whether the social catalysis effect is generic or influenced by the appearance of the dog. The behavior of 1800 pedestrians approaching a female experimenter was recorded as a function of the presence of three dogs (Labrador Retriever pup, Labrador adult, Rottweiler adult) and two neutral stimuli (teddy bear, potted plant). The behavior of pedestrians approaching the woman whenever she was alone (control) was also explored. Information was collected on the passers-by' gender, number of people in the party, type of acknowledgement elicited and length of conversations. More people ignored the experimenter whenever she was alone or with the teddy or plant, than whenever she was walking a dog. The Rottweiler resulted in more nonresponses than the puppy or adult Labrador, who in turn elicited more smiles and verbal responses. Females, and those alone, elicited more smiles and conversations than males, or those in pairs. It is concluded that dogs can facilitate social interactions between adults better than other accompaniments; however, the social catalysis effect is not generic, but dog specific.