Dogs as social ice breakers

Armen Hareyan's picture

Dogs can act as powerful social catalysts, making it easier for people to make social contact with each other.

This effect is the same in different locations and with differences in the appearance of the dogs or handlers. Quite simply, people are motivated to make conversation if there is a safe topic available. Dogs appear to fulfill this role.

These were the findings of a study by Dr June McNicholas and Dr Glyn Collis of Warwick University, published on Tuesday 15 February 2000, in the British Journal of Psychology.


Two participant observers went about their separate daily outdoor routines either alone, or accompanied by a dog trained to ignore passers-by so it would not initiate social contact.

One of the participant observers was sometimes smartly dressed and at other times scruffy. Being in the company of a dog increased all social interactions, no matter what the appearance of the dog or the handler.

"This may help us understand why pet owners are frequently reported to be healthier than non-owners" said Dr McNicholas. "It may be that increased casual social contact can increase feelings of well-being, provide companionship and a sense of social integration."

By British Journal of Psychology

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