The Benefits of Giving as well as Receiving Need Support in Human–Pet Relations

Abstract

Dog owners often ascribe human qualities to their dogs and, as such, view them as close others and a source of need support that fosters psychological well-being—this is called the pet effect. In this work, we went beyond the effect of what owners receive from their dogs and examined the benefits of giving need support. Applying self-determination theory’s conceptualization of basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence, we designed a 21-daily diary study (n = 104). Results showed giving need support to a dog contributed to owners’ well-being, lessened their psychological distress, and led to greater closeness to the dog, beyond the contribution of receiving need support. Similar to previous research, we observed benefits for receiving need support. In addition, well-being and closeness increased the tendency to care for a dog. These results support the notion that giving daily need support to a close other, a dog in this case, is beneficial to psychological wellness.

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Kanat-Maymon, Y., Wolfson, S., Cohen, R. et al. The Benefits of Giving as well as Receiving Need Support in Human–Pet Relations. J Happiness Stud (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00279-9

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Keywords

  • Self-determination theory
  • Basic psychological need
  • Pet effect
  • Well-being
  • Psychological distress