Pets Influence Social Relationships
Unlike the previous years when the pets were treated, well as… pets, nowadays more and more people treat their pets as human beings. They see their dog or their cat as being their equal, and that can lead to unwanted consequences. The researchers have stated that it is very clear that some of the people get attached to their pets as if they were human beings, and it is not surprising to realize why. Unlike humans, pets, especially dogs, show an incredible amount of affection. They love their owners, and all they need is a little bit of care and love in return. They do not know too much, but even with their simplicity they can make one feel better. They will come to you and offer you attention regardless of the way in which you feel. The scientists have been interested in the human-pet relationship for a while now. According to them, the pets have the capacity of altering the entire social hierarchy in a family, as each member of the family interacts with the pet in a different manner.
Froma Walsh, a psychologist at the University of Chicago and co-director of the Chicago Center for Family Health, said that in the majority of the cases, the pets from a family are actually seen as a family member, and because of that, the human relationships from the family, are modified. People no longer call their animals “pets” they call them “companions”, and even if this change seems unimportant, it carries a great value. They are often seen as being very important, and there are lots of cases in which they are the ones which keep the peace in the family, and which can prevent a fight. However, there are cases when the pets can be the cause of a conflict, and that usually happens when one member of the family does not have the same conception about the animal as the other members do. According to the psychologists, the main reason why people consider the pets to be more than simple animals is because they have recollections about their first pet. They get a dog for example, and each member of the family sees in their pet, their first animal, that one dog which loved them when they were young. Dr. Walsh said that one mother stops their children from fighting by telling them that the family dog is bothered by the fight. The children stop, because they do not want to upset the dog.
According to Dr. Walsh, the animals can sense these intense moments, and they can interfere with them. For example, in one family, whenever the spouses had an argument, the dog went to either the husband or the wife, and demanded a walk. He would bark at one of them and then head towards the door, in order to keep the two separated and to prevent them from fighting. However, as I said, animals can also be a source of tension. There are numerous cases when one of the spouses can no longer tolerate the bad behavior of the animal, and would like to get rid of it. However, the other partner might not want to get rid of the animal, and in that case the spouse will make an ultimatum: “it’s either me or the cat/dog”. There were cases when the spouse chose the animal instead of the human partner. Elizabeth Terrien, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, analyzed more than 90 families which own dogs. She discovered that the people’s conceptions regarding the animals are influenced by the area from which they are.
For example, people who live in the rural areas see the dogs as animals, and they keep them outside in the yard. They usually have big dogs, which act as guardians of the house. The families who live in urban areas have a different conception about their pets, treating them as children. It was discovered that the people who belong to the middle class consider their pets to be very important, and they treat them with much care. They would not do things to their dogs which other people do, such as yanking the leash for example, because they consider that to be cruel. These people often spend way more money on their pets than the people from the other social classes do. There are many people who take their pets to spas, and who spoil them and the extra care can be a reason for arguing. Terrien said that there were cases when people separated because their pets did not get along. His dog always fought with her dog, and instead of trying to fix the problem, they separated. None of them wanted to give up the pet, so they saw the separation as being the only solution to their problem.
According to the scientists, there are three types of pet owners: “dominionists”, “humanists”, and “protectionists”. The ones from the first category treat their pets as regular animals; they love them but they do not consider them to be their equals. The humanists see the pets as being human-like; they treat them very well, they cook certain foods for them, they take them to animal spas, and so on. The protectionists are the ones that have a unique conception about their animals. For example, they consider the act of keeping a dog tied to a pole outside of a store to be animal cruelty. Each of these categories come in conflict one with the other, and there are numerous cases when one member of the family belongs to a certain group, whereas the other one belongs to a different group. Needles to say, that creates lots of tension.11