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Dog ownership is popular worldwide, with most human-dog dyads forming successful attachment bonds. However, millions of dogs are surrendered to animal shelters annually, possibly due to mismatches between owner expectations and the realities of dog ownership. The aim of the current study was to explore the benefits and challenges people expect from dog ownership and how these expectations vary with previous ownership history. An Australian-wide sample of 3465 prospective adopters completed a self-administered online questionnaire about the physical, mental and psychosocial health benefits and challenges they associated with dog ownership. Among the potential benefits, respondents expected increased walking (89%), happiness (89%) and companionship (61%) and decreased stress (74%) and loneliness (61%). Among the challenges, they expected increased responsibility (64%) and dog training (62%). Ownership history influenced respondents’ expectations, with previous/current dog owners having consistently greater odds of expecting benefits and reduced odds of expecting challenges than non-owners. A possible explanation is that previous/current dog owners’ exhibit bias when considering dog ownership by selectively recalling positive experiences from previous ownership. Our findings support the need for education of prospective dog owners to ensure their expectations align with the reality of ownership, based on current scientific evidence.


Open access article