SPARCS 2015: What the New Science of Human-Animal Interactions Reveals About Our Relationships With Dogs with Hal Herzog, PhD

SPARCS 2015: What the New Science of Human-Animal Interactions Reveals About Our Relationships With Dogs with Hal Herzog, PhD

Review of Anthrozoology with Hal Herzog.

Anthrozoology (also known as human–non-human-animal studies, or HAS) is the study of interaction between humans and other animals.

The types of questions Anthrozoology asks are:
Why do humans keep pets?
Are there gender differences in how we think about pets?
What are the physiological effects on humans from interacting with animals?

“90% of owners think of pets as family members.”

“40% of married women say they get more emotional satisfaction from their dog than from significant other.”

40% of owners would save their dog over a stranger if they had to choose between the two.” Read more about the Trolley Problem.

The Humanization of Pets

The “humanization of pets” includes dressing pets up in costumes, throwing them birthday parties and weddings, as well as breeding or selecting for childlike features.

“Humanization” comes with moral consequences.

“Humanization” shifts dog breeds from having a function to being fashionable.

Different cultures around the world view animals differently. There is a cultural difference between “having a dog” and “having a pet.” “Having a pet,” did not come as a cultural shift in the United States until after WWII.

Dog Popularity

“Having a purebred dog,” peaked in 1987 and has been in decline ever since. This shift can be linked to the cultural view that “having a rescue dog,” makes people “good,” and “moral.”

There are more than 400 breeds of dogs worldwide, but most breeds are less than 200 years old.

What decides one breed becomes popular over another is based on chance. Those breeds that gain popularity very quickly also decline very quickly. Having a specific breed becomes fashionable.

Owner reported behavior issues have no impact on whether a dog remains popular or declines.

Dogs appearing in movies increase in popularity based on first week ticket sales, with AKC registrations for that breed peaking 10 years after the opening weekend. On average a breed being in a hit movie results in 800,000 additional registrations than there were prior to the movie’s release.

The Pet Industrial Complex

There is a cultural shift with the Pet Industrial Complex, which promotes healthier living through pet ownership, morality through pet ownership, and creates dividing lines between “good” people and “bad” people.

There is no evidence that pet owners live longer, no matter what news organizations promote.

The promotion of morality of what makes someone a good person is how they treat their pets. Even if they are bad people who treat animals well, they are viewed as having some morality.

The Takeaway
When we study our relationships with animals what we really do is learn about ourselves.

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