For many years animals have played a large part in the average family unit. Animals become more than just pets and begin to be considered a family member or a best friend. With such close relationships developing between owner and pet it would not be far fetched to say that animals could act as a social mediator for those who suffer from chronic anxiety in social situations.
I believe that pets can greatly reduce stress and anxiety during social interactions with those who suffer from social anxiety. Since dogs are the most commonly seen pets in an outside setting most studies have been with dogs rather than other pets such as cats. A study done by McNicholas and Collis (2000) looked into how dogs are a catalyst for social interactions. Two studies were conducted to tests the strength of this effect. In the first study, a highly trained dog was used to ensure that the dogs unruly behavior did not attract unwanted attention from passers-by. The participant was asked to take the dog with him or her (both sexes were used as participants in the study to rule out gender influence), during his/her normal daily activities. These activities were not confined to conventional dog walking, and the participants were encouraged to bring the animal wherever they went. It was found that being accompanied by a dog significantly increased the frequency of social interactions with strangers.
Sytsma, Jennifer L.
"Research Proposal: Dogs as Reducers of Anxiety in Social Situations,"
Undergraduate Psychology Research Methods Journal: Vol. 1
, Article 19.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lindenwood.edu/psych_journals/vol1/iss2/19
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