Sadly, about a third of British people consider themselves to be socially isolated and lonely, with just two confidants on hand, according to new research by Mars Petcare for their Dog Dates initiative.
In addition, Brits on average feel lonely for one week a month, when you add up the individual hours and days.
This is what Sandra McCune, scientific expert in human-animal-interaction, calls a “crisis of loneliness and social isolation,” and it’s not only effecting the age group you might immediately expect…
“You expect to see loneliness in older adults because our networks seem to shrink a bit as we get older – although this is not always the case,” Sandra, who is current working at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, told Country Living UK. “But what we are finding from several of the surveys, and from different NGOs, is that the results for loneliness are higher in the millennial age group, with half of 18 to 24-year-olds feeling socially isolated.”
“The suspicion is that it might have something to do with how millennials interact virtually rather than face-to-face,” Sandra describes.
But there are things lonely people can do to feel more involved and sociable and one of them is to get a pet.
“Pets can be a fantastic support for people who are experiencing loneliness. Why? The single most important thing about them is that they are amazing social connectors,” Sandra explained to CL.
There is a wealth of research which has found that, if you go out with a pet, people are more likely to talk to you. Not only that but they are more likely to talk to you about a wider range of topics and talk to you for longer. This is because people feel like they can start talking to your dog and then, consequently, talk to you.
“That is a result that is robust,” says Sandra. “Even when you take a breed that people are a little wary of, like a Pit Bull Terrier, and try to make the person look a bit more roughly dressed and less approachable, we still see the same results.”
Studies have shown that dogs have the strongest connection to loneliness, mainly because they are on show a lot more. Over 80% 0f people who took part in the Mars Petcare research said that, just one month after getting a dog, they felt a lot less lonely.
However, the emotional improvement is still significant if the owner has a different pet. Sandra explains that pet-owners of any sort see their animals as conversation starters and use it as a way to make a non-judgemental, emotional connection with other people.
“There are dogs that are bred for certain things so you may not want to get a really highly-intelligent, highly-active working breed because they may not be the best company,” says Sandra. “They may really badly need a job to do.”
Sandra suggests choosing a breed that is essentially bred for companionship, like a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, but she strongly makes the point that:
“The single most important thing is their behaviour and temperament and that really depends on what happens in the early life of the puppy. Getting early socialisation right is crucial.”
We asked the UK Kennel Club to share their recommendations of dog breeds best suited for companionship and lonely owners…
This content was originally published here.