Vindicating the Truman doctrine

Scientific research reveals that not only does having a dog seem to be good for you, but people who develop attachments to their dogs might not be as neurotic as commonly believed:

The field of psychotherapy has traditionally viewed those whose closest relationships are with animals as somehow lacking, their affections pathologically misplaced, their devotion a symptom of their inability to forge healthy connections with the humans around them.

But in recent years, researchers have begun to take far more seriously the bonds between humans and animals and to evaluate those relationships in a more positive light.

"There are whole segments of the population that prefer being in the company of dogs than people, and I'm not sure that's such a negative thing," said Joel Gavriele-Gold, a psychoanalyst in private practice in Manhattan and the author of "When Pets Come Between Partners."

In a recent study, Lawrence Kurdek, a psychologist at Wright State University in Ohio, found that college students who had a high level of attachment to their dogs showed greater attachment to the pets than to their fathers. Their attachment to their mothers, siblings and best friends was just about the same as their attachment to their canine companions, Kurdek found.

The study, reported in the April issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, found that the students who were most strongly attached to their dogs did not show high levels of anxiety or avoidance - characteristics that some therapists would expect to see in people with unusually fierce bonds to animals.

The finding, Kurdek wrote, supports the idea that "people strongly attached to their pet dogs do not turn to pet dogs as substitutes for failed interactions with humans."

To Gavriele-Gold, the intensity of the relationship between people and their pets is unsurprising.

"Humans tend to be very disappointing - notice our divorce rate," Gavriele-Gold said. "Dogs are not hurtful and humans are. People are inconsistent and dogs are fairly consistent."

Dogs are not hurtful and humans are?

Who knew?

It's amazing that it took peer-reviewed research to confirm what Harry Truman famously said:

You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog!
To Harry Truman, add Mark Twain:
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
I guess those guys must have been ahead of their time.

posted by Eric on 07.07.08 at 10:19 AM


Interesting. I know the study involved dogs, but I can express the same sentiments about our cat. Cats get a bad rap because they can be aloof. Ours, however, is very affectionate and playful. Since she's black, she's inspired me to decorate the apartment with all sort of black cat decor, so people might think I have some sort of neurosis. Or tacky taste. It's meant to be fun, people!

Anne   ·  July 7, 2008 10:36 AM

I thought it was BESS Truman who did that line. See the HBO production of MCullough's biography. Gary Seniese did a great job as Harry.

Whitehall   ·  July 7, 2008 4:08 PM

How long before these social scientists are forced to grovel in apology to the faux outrage of faux spokesman for the muslim community?

Clint   ·  July 7, 2008 9:07 PM

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