Graduation Year

January 2011

Graduation Month


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

School or Department


Faculty Mentor Department


Faculty Mentor

June Ellestad

Faculty Reader(s)

Gretchen McCaffrey


socialize, attachment, interaction, companion, chick magnet, fur baby, dog, qualitative, dogs, family, pets, pet, personification, anthropomorphism

Subject Categories



Since their domestication, dogs have played an important role in human society. People put them to work hunting game, herding livestock and guarding the home, and also keep them as companions. As dogs increasingly occupy a meaningful position in the lives of their owners, the startling lack of research on dog-human interaction becomes increasingly apparent.

This research discovers different ways people relate to their dogs, and the meaning dogs hold for their owners. While conducting observations, I identified and interviewed owners who exhibited an emotionally meaningful attachment to their dogs. I then used Glaser and Strauss’ grounded theory approach to analyze the data. The observations and in-field interviews I collected in public, dog-friendly places allowed me to gain insight into the relationships between dogs and their people.

Owners in my study tended to adopt their dogs for a variety of reasons, including for companionship, as a replacement dog, and as a precursor to parenthood. Dogs also provided access to meaningful relationships with others, as when owners stated they often socialized with other dog people. They also described structuring their lives and everyday routines around their dogs. Through the language they used, owners conveyed a sense that their dogs were members of the family and had individual desires, preferences, and rights not unlike those we ascribe to humans. The idea that dogs possess rights similar to those of humans suggests that some dog owners hold a worldview akin to deep ecologists: that humans are equal, rather than superior, to other animals.

Honors College Research Project


Included in

Sociology Commons



© Copyright 2011 Ariel Teresa Leigh Petersen