How Your Dog Can Help You Get Over a Breakup
Next time you get dumped, you might want to make a date with your dog: Animals can make us feel better when other humans are making our lives tough, research from Arcadia University suggests.
In the study, viewing photos of dogs and cats boosted people’s levels of wellbeing after they recalled times they were socially rejected—say, turned down from a date or excluded from a group.
Why? We tend to anthropomorphize animals, meaning we ascribe human-like qualities, like emotions and personality traits, to them, says lead study author Christina Brown, Ph.D.
That makes them a close second to people—and the obvious choice to boost our mood when our actual peers have let us down.
“When we feel rejected or lonely, we want to feel connected to other people again,” Brown explains. “If we think animals have emotions and relate to us like humans do, then they can give us the feeling of social connection we’re lacking from other people.”
Plus, animals bring all the good that your other friends offer with none of the bad: They can provide the social comfort without the risk of rejection, Brown adds.
Simply looking at photos of the animals boosted the study participants’ moods, but actually spending time with a pet you adore can make the effect even stronger, she says.
That’s because we likely associate even more human elements, like names and habits, to our own pets than we do to random animals.
So if your buddy blows you off, stop stewing and spend some time with your four-legged friend instead.
While this should help you feel better in the moment, it’s not a permanent fix: Pets can’t erase what’s making you feel bad in the first place.
So you’ll eventually have to deal with humans head on to fix it, either by ending a relationship if you notice a pattern of rejection from the person or by evaluating your own behavior if you think you’re the cause of that rejection, she says.