People's trust is bolstered by the presence of pets.
Companion animals are an important component of American family life, with 90 million homes owning at least one pet. Many of us consider our dogs to be treasured family members who offer nonjudgmental emotional support and company when we are stressed.
That's not all, though. According to research, our dogs can help us build stronger relationships and trust with others. In addition, pets help to build trust in our larger social communities.
Animal companions as social mediators
Animals, as many of us are aware, can be used to approach another person socially and serve as a verbal beginning point for relationship. Even among people who may not share comparable hobbies, pet ownership can be a source of shared interest and expertise.
Strolling down the street with a dog can result in much more social encounters than walking down the street without one. These interactions can also be made easier with the help of assistance dogs. According to one study, when a wheelchair user's assistance animal was present, they were more likely to be addressed.
Interacting with a pet can provide additional opportunities for youngsters to practice positive social interactions as well as develop empathy and compassion. According to recent studies, children who live with dogs have stronger social and emotional skills. In our own research at the Tufts Dogs and Well-Being Lab, we discovered that teenagers who have strong relationships to their pets are more likely to have strong social skills and empathy for others than those who do not.
Social capital and pets
Pets have also been found to help communities build social capital. The broader community and local networks of social interactions, as well as the degree to which the community has a culture of aiding others, are all part of social capital. The trust that these relationships foster can contribute to improved health and well-being.
Pet owners, both in the United States and worldwide, have consistently reported higher levels of social capital in their communities than persons without pets.
Pets can contribute to social capital via enhancing social trust within communities, in addition to social facilitation. Neighbors may be able to rely on one another for animal care, which fosters reciprocal trust. The utilization of common spaces by pet owners, such as dog parks or green spaces, might improve social ties.
Despite this, dog owners were more likely than non-dog owners to go for regular walks outside during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving an opportunity for community participation during a period of acute social isolation. The presence of an animal in the workplace has even been shown to boost beneficial social relationships.
Animals are not a universal solution for building trust, despite the fact that evidence continues to support the assumption that pets encourage healthy interactions between people. We still have a lot to learn about the interconnected ties between pets and humans.