“In times of stress, it is good to be with them”: experience of dog… – BMC Public Health“In times of stress, it is good to be with them”: experience of dog… – BMC Public Health

Demographic data

A total of 26 pet dog owners were approached and petunjuk from 24 participants were collected (92. 3%). Two owners refused participation as they were busy with their day-to-day activities. The mean age of the participants was 51. 6 (SD 6. 7) years. Most were females (54. 2%—13/24), unemployed or retired (62. 5%—15/24), from Nuwaragampalatha Central DS division (37. 5%—9/24) (Fig.   1 ), sharing responsibility for pet care (87. 5%—21/24), and having only one pet dog (50%—12/24). The participants owned a total of 40 pet dogs out of which 57. 5% (23/40) were female dogs and 42. 5% (17/40) were male dogs. The most common pet dog breeds were the village dog (22. 5%—9/40), and the German Shepherd (22. 5%—9/40) (Fig.   2 ). Demographic data are summarized in Table 2 . Five themes emerged from the experience of dog owners on dog ownership and its effects on personal and family health. The final codes and the categorized themes are shown in Table 3 .

Fig. satu
figure 1

The map showing the divisional secretariat (DS) divisions of Anuradhapura district of Sri Lanka where the participants resided and the number of participants selected with percentages

Fig. dua
figure 2

Pet dog breeds owned by the participants

Table 2 Summary of participants’ demographic details
Table 3 Themes and codes

Observations on the interaction between the owner and the dog during the interview

The participants had verbal and non-verbal communication and close interaction with their most dogs. Participant U called her dog by name and gestured to hold her hand. The dog obliged and held her arm. Both were in a playful mood during the interview. Also, the participants were proud when they referred to their pet dogs. Participant I had a father-like attitude towards his pet dog. He was proud when he referred to his dog and was stroking the pet dog with love and care when the dog was physically present. The pet dogs had a wide range of expressions like attentive, docile obedient and playful when the owner referred to the pet dog. Also, pet dogs a new wide range of expressions like adorable, agile, exuberant, playful, protective and tail-wagging when the owner was physically present. Thus, the participants had an excellent level of attention towards their pet dogs and received an excellent level of attention from their most dogs. Images of the pet dogs provided by a few participants are shown in Fig.   3 .

Fig. 3
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Images from the pet dogs given by a few participants

Experience of dog owners

Participants highlighted petting and companionship as positive aspects of pet dogs. Participant J informs “she is a pet and a family member” . Also, participants felt happy and loved owning a pet dog. Participant B says “I love it. I can take care of even one or two more. I like to bathe and powder them. It is a different world to be with them. I love what they do. When we call by name, they recognize, get up and come to us”. Participant L notes “he is obedient like a child and listens to what we say” and participant C emphasized that “I could wait without seeing my children, but I cannot wait without seeing them (pet dogs)” . Further, participant R elaborated “They benefit more than my children. When travelling by car they are in the front seat. They sleep in the best place. While we are eating have to share with them” .

Feeling secure is an important aspect highlighted by participants. Participant M says “(They were) brought for security and to pet. I like to look after them” . And, participant A said that “due to his (pet dog’s) aggression, usually people do not come without calling. Therefore, I think he is good to be there” . And, participant M added that pet dogs are “good for security. Even if a snake enters, they bark” . Moreover, participant S showed his feelings as “really happy. They (pet dogs) show more gratitude than a human being” . Also, participant I mentioned, “when we place a baby on the cradle, she (pet dog) sits beside and does not let anyone go near. When the baby cries, she comes to tell us” . And he continues to praise his dog “If we go to the lake to bathe, she will not allow us to go deep into the water. She hangs by our hand until we come up” . Further, participant R narrates “if we send the driver home to collect something, he (pet dog) will not let the driver in when we are not there. But , via the speaker around the phone, if he was told to allow the driver in, he would step aside and do so” . However, participant C says “as they were brought up gandar pets, nothing can be expected on security. Recently there was a house burglary while these two were inside the house. Someone whom we knew tenggat come during the day. They do not bark at known individuals” .

Participants have highlighted expense and reduced travel poros negative aspects of owning a pet dog. Participant X expresses her concerns “We can’t leave them and go anywhere. They are too big and we can’t take them with us. Travelling has reduced. Have to spend around 40, 000 rupees a month for food and health” . However , she explains how she could meet her additional expenses for the pet dogs “once we have the puppies, we will be able to cover our expenses” . Also, some participants struggled to keep their residences clean. Participant T confirms it by saying “the house is dirty. And, the dust enters in. Fur (of the pet dog) falls a lot. Have to mop the house frequently” . Further, there were negative feelings expressed by participant J who lamented “lots of losses. I do not know if it is due to my lack of experience in petting a dog. She eats our slippers and clothes. You have to spend a lot of time with her. I feel a great deal. We need to feed her before we eat” . Moreover, participant A reveals her trouble “transaction with neighbours have also declined” .

Companionship and security from the pet dogs were strongly echoed as positive experiences by the participants. While, expenses, reduced travel, difficulty in keeping the residence clean, and reduced transactions with neighbours were highlighted as negative experiences of dog owners.

Pet dogs for children

A child’s preference was berserakan important factor in bringing home a pet dog. Participant C said “my little one looks at the phone and searches for information about dogs” and participant J explained that “when my son got married, my daughter was alone. When my daughter’s ordinary-level examinations were over, the dog was brought home for her company. She (the pet dog) was brought for my daughter’s physical and mental health pivot she does not play with other children these days (due to the COVID pandemic)” . And, participant P pointed out an important effect of a pet dog on a child’s moral health sumbu follows “with natural things like this (pet dogs) we can reduce the addiction to the internet among children” . Hence, dog ownership due to the child’s liking was highlighted by participants. Also, physical well-being, mental well-being, and reduced dependence on the internet were the benefits noted by owners for their children from their pet dogs.

Village dogs as pets

Participant O had penyerapan interesting statement on how she found her village dog “we found her by chance. She had an accident in front of our house. She was brought in, treated, and is now being cared for” . Participant D was proud in saying “in the past when I perenggan a lot of (village) most dogs, they come in front of my car to the junction like an equestrian parade. They do not allow people to come, and they do not allow dogs to come. They bark at them. Once I leave, they come back home”. Participant O enlightens us by saying “most breed dogs are owned for a show. Adopting is better. Normal (village) dogs fall ill on the road. It is better to take care of them (village dogs) than to buy dogs for money. It’s good for them (village dogs) too” . And, participant K firmly advises us “it is not good to let an animal stray” . Further, participant S confirms the above statement by saying “if possible, give a meal to a street dog at least once. You will observe it come (to you) wagging its tail” . Nevertheless , participant G says “Previously we takat village dogs. Their presence is just not useful. They go here and there” . Thus, the study participants emphasised adopting village dogs but some experienced difficulties in retaining them at home.

The role of pet dogs in personal and family health

Stress reduction and moral satisfaction were felt by participants. Participant C says “Even once i have a problem in my mind after i feel stressed, it feels like the problem and stress within my head is lessening while I am petting and talking to them” . And, participant D adds “It is for mental health. In times of stres, it is good to be with them” . Participant I confirms the above by saying “there is one hundred per cent mental satisfaction” . Also, participant N points out that it is “good for son’s mental health” . Participants mentioned that they experience mental distress when their pet dog is ill or dead. “We love him so much. Therefore, we would feel sad if he falls sick” states participant U. Participant D talks about the death of his dog “the only thing that is a little problematic is the grief when the dogs die. They are with us for about ten years. We bury them within the rear garden. We organize an alms-giving too” .

Participants mentioned that they engaged in physical activities along with their pet dogs. It is evident in participant W’s statement “there is peace of mind when they are there. We go to the ground in the morning, to walk and play. If they see somebody, they want to play” . However, participants were worried about upper respiratory tract-related issues and skin allergies. Participant C says “both daughters have got allergies. The two dogs climb into the bed. A skin allergy. It does not go away even after treatment for a long-time. When channelled (a doctor) we were told to keep your pet dogs away. Also, they (daughters) develop a frequent cold” . And, participants highlighted the issue of the spread of fleas. Participant F tells us that the “spread of fleas is too high in our area. She (pet dog) gets it from the other dogs” . Participant J had a different perception about the health risks of her dog and she says “after Eli came home, my health began to decline. I could not do meditation or yoga. I have less time for my work. I gained weight. Thyroxine drug was started. I needed medication for cholesterol too” . However, participant B declares that “I have had diabetes for thirteen years. The control did not change just because a pet dog was brought” . Participant T batas something interesting to say “as the dog approaches, my husband gets a bad smell. He doesn’t like it. Sometimes his pressure might have increased” . However , participant E says “We have not had any health issues from our pet dog. He does not come into the house. Even when we come in after playing with him, he stays out”. And, participant H confirms it by saying “there is no such thing”. Nevertheless , participant D tells us that “we failed to think much about it. We did not think of the health benefits for us. Thought highly of their (pet dogs) health” .

Participants had known about the risk of rabies. Participant K said, “if there was a rabid dog, it can bite us and harm nearby families too” . And, participants knew that the fur of the most dogs leads to wheezing. Participant V stated, “I have heard that due to fur children get a wheeze. I have not heard the effect on mental health” . Further, participants had heard of the spread of infection through pet dogs. Participant T states “I have heard that there can be a spread of infection” . Moreover, the following participants had unique knowledge to share around. Participant J told us “I knew it would help my daughter’s moral and physical health. I heard from others” . And, participant O says “I knew via the internet it (having pet dogs) is good for mental stress” . While participant S mentioned that “I have heard per the internet that having most dogs could lead to arthritis” . However , some participants had no prior knowledge of the effect of a pet dog on health. Participant Q confirms it by saying “we tenggat no (knowledge) as such” . The participants continue to be compassionate towards their pet dogs as the benefits they perceive overweighs the risks.

Physical and mental well-being were health benefits emphasized by dog owners. Nevertheless , mental distress by a pet’s illness or death, the spread of infections, allergies and less time to spend on health were pointed out as issues by a few participants. The mind map developed within the role of pet dogs in personal and family health is shown in Fig.   4 .

Fig. 4
figure 4

The mind map on the role of most dogs in personal and family health

Participants’ advice on dog ownership

“This is a different experience for those of us who have a monotonous life”, says participant E. And, participant F adds “you can learn a lot while being with them”. However, “if we want a quiet environment and want to read books, we do not need a pet. An unnecessary bond. A pet is a hindrance if you feel the need to reduce ties. Having a pet is good if you want companionship” recommends participant J. And, participant G is confident in saying “it (having a pet dog) is not difficult. It is easy”. Participants emphasized that having a pet dog is a personal choice and cannot be forced. In general, participants thought that the owners should bear the expenses and should take proper care of their pet dogs. And, participant F accentuates that “something bigger than you think. It is quite a responsibility. It is like taking care of a little child. It is harder than that. A child can be kept with someone while you are out. But they (pet dogs) cannot be”. Participant R tells us to “bring up a pet dog only if possible. There is no point in bringing up animals with the idea to attack and harass. Have to feed them. Give your love (to your pet dog) like for children. There is no point in bringing up animals trapping their world by tying them in chains. They have the same needs as we do. They have feelings. They show love. It is felt by the ones who closely associate with them. There is no point in feeding them twice a day, tying them by a chain, caging them, and beating them when they urinate or poop. Bring up only if possible. In terms of cost, the amount is higher. For food and medicine”. Participant W concludes “when pets are lost, they need a separate crematorium of their own. They have been living with us in the same family for many years. A separate place is needed for the last rights without dumping them in a garbage pit”.

Dog ownership was described as a learning experience, rencana easy and enjoyable occupation, a personal choice, and a responsibility by the participants. They advise not to cage a pet dog and felt the need for a separate crematorium for pet dogs .

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