It isn’t the conventional doghouse haven where Fido rushes to escape household chaos and raised voices. Nor is it that psychological place where we all find ourselves occasionally when the significant other is mad—and sometimes with good reason.
Investigators at Penn Vet and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania are undertaking a research study to develop and validate a quality-of-life questionnaire named DOGhOUSE, which will be sent to 300 dog owners.
Dr. Mark Oyama, a University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine cardiologist, will introduce it to specialists June 3 at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in Indianapolis in an address entitled “The Connection Between Dog Health and Ownership on Human Well-Being.”
“Dog ownership is associated with physical health and psychological benefits,” says Oyama. “The effects on overall well-being and quality of life are critical components of human health and deserving of study.”
Measurement of quality of living associated with dog ownership, he argues, is hindered by the lack of quality-of-living questions specifically validated for this type of research.
The potential for dog ownership to have a negative impact on its owner’s quality of living—increased caretaking responsibility, financial burden and stress associated with the dog becoming ill— has been overlooked in previous work, adds the veterinarian.
DOGhOUSE is designed as a well-balanced instrument aimed at overcoming previous inadequacies in capturing a true sense of respondents’ feelings on all facets of dog ownership. It concentrates on 10 aspects of everyday life that researchers have identified as important between owners and their dogs.
It includes sections on background (the respondent is not identified) such as gender, zip code of residence, marital status, year of birth and whether there are dependents or children in the household.
The other three sections deal with the potential positive aspects of dog ownership; potential negative aspects of dog ownership; effect of dog ownership on the individual’s overall quality of life.
With a choice of options from strongly agree to strongly disagree here are some of the questions included in the positive arena: dog ownership provides me love and affection; dog ownership proves me companionship when I want it; dog ownership provides me emotional support; dog ownership improved the amount of social activities I perform; dog ownership improves my ability to do things for fun outside my house; dog ownership improves my level of physical activity.
Potential negative ownership questions are: dog ownership interferes with my other household responsibilities; dog ownership results in damage to my belongings or property; dog ownership interferes with my ability to go on vacation or leave my house; dog ownership increases my level of stress.
And here’s what respondents will answer in the final section—the effect of dog ownership on one’s overall quality of life: how would you rate the effect of dog ownership on your physical activities and ability; on your social activities and relationships; on your emotional health and happiness; on your overall quality of life.
Answer options here range from moderately negative to strongly positive.
Investigators are hopeful that upon completion DOGhOUSE can be used in a variety of studies to better understand the effect of dog ownership, intervention and animal-assisted therapy on our quality of life. Up to 300 owners will take the survey—which can be completed in 10 minutes.