Why do People Prefer Dogs to Humans?
"Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.” Sigmund Freud
“The better I get to know people, the more I find myself loving dogs.” Charles de Gaulle, former President of France
We all know that many people prefer dogs to humans, but why? Is there any reasonable explanation for it? Some say it's due to unconditional love. Your dog doesn't care if you are in your pyjamas all day and your dog doesn't talk about you behind your back. But when it comes right down to it, does anyone really value animals above humans?
Social scientist Hal Herzog investigates the "humanization of pets" in his book Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals. He says that "our attitudes to other species are fraught with inconsistency. We share the earth with roughly 40,000 other kinds of vertebrate animals, but most of us only get bent out of shape over the treatment of a handful of species. You know the ones: the big-eye baby seals, circus elephants, chimpanzees, killer whales at Sea World, etc. And while we deeply love our pets, there is little hue and cry over the 24 horses that die on race tracks in the United States each week, let alone the horrific treatment of the nine billion broiler chickens American consume annually."
New research has found that humans love dogs more than other people. A study published 2 months ago showed that dogs are more emotive with their faces when their owner is looking at them. Evolutionary psychologist Bridget Waller explains that domestication has changed dogs to be more communicative with humans. According to 2 recent social experiments, we’re more likely to empathize with struggling dogs than people in difficulty. In the first test, an experiment was conducted over 2 years testing whether people were more likely to donate money to help dogs or humans. The researchers printed two ads asking the question “Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?”. One ad showed a little boy and the other a dog. It was Harrison the dog that received the most donations. In another study measuring empathy, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston distributed 4 fake newspaper reports. Each case described an unknown assailant with a baseball bat attacking a different victim: an infant, an adult, a puppy and an adult dog. Respondents were significantly less distressed when adult humans were victimized, in comparison to human babies, puppies and adult dogs. The researchers concluded that a) we’re more likely to feel empathy for a victim if we consider them to be helpless and unable to look after themselves, and b) many of us consider dogs as family members and get more upset by stories of dogs being beaten up or hurt than humans going through the same.
At first glance, preferring a dog over humans seems absurd. After all a dog's thinking is limited and its speech non-existent. Nonetheless, if people haven't been reliably kind to you, a dog offers certain advantages:
Reliability - A dog will always be there for you, whereas divorce rates among humans are high.
Non-judgementalness - A dog will never disparage you as opposed to having a partner who seldom listens.
No hidden motives - Dogs give consistent, unconditional love whereas people at times are nice to your face and then stab you in the back. Or they're nice until it becomes expedient not to be, i.e. if a significant amount of money is at stake.
Practicality - A dog keeps you healthy through daily exercise; if you're lonely, a dog often attracts new people to meet; dogs provide security and bark when strangers approach your home.
Overall, people relate better to dogs than other humans, in part, because animals are fairly self-sufficient, don't demand much, are readily grateful for even small tokens of attention and can be easily managed when they become a bother.
Dogs get by fairly well on limited attention whereas humans may want, need and demand a significant amount of attention and intimacy. Although the requirement for intimacy is low the dependency of the animal may be reassuring for most owners. Several dog owners prefer having pets to children who are often overly dependent, needful and demanding in a way that is seemingly never-ending. Dogs are non-judgemental so owners don't have to fear accusations or rejection. There is also significant comfort for a pet owner in the knowledge that their dog will never leave them, and they can form deep attachments to their dogs without fear of abandonment.
So even if you generally prefer people over dogs, for most of us, the benefits of having a dog in the family far outweigh the liabilities.
What's your opinion on why people prefer dogs to other humans? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your comments below and let us know!
Our PET EVENTS focusing on Mental Health Wellness have proven that interacting with affectionate dogs can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, lower blood-pressure and even decrease the perception of pain. These petting sessions offer students and staff who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, the opportunity to increase socialization through interaction with dogs and people in a relaxing setting.
Do you have a gentle well-behaved dog who loves people and is nice to other dogs? You may want to find out about joining our Therapy Dog Program. Check our Requirements to see if you are a right match and contact us. Let's see whether your dog would be suitable to work as a Therapy Dog providing love and comfort to people in need in your community!