The Human-Dog Bond as a Mediator in the Relationship Between Loneliness and Emotional Well-Being

Caroline Jane Allen & Rachel Caroline Hogg

Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia

Loneliness is prevalent in contemporary Western society and although it is commonly
believed that pets can buffer owners against the effects of loneliness on emotional well-being,
empirical research is limited. This study addressed the question of whether loneliness
positively predicts the strength of the human-dog bond, and whether the human-dog bond
mitigates the deleterious effects of loneliness on emotional well-being. A community sample of
Australian pet-dog owners (N = 639: 123 men, 516 women) aged 18-80 participated in the
study. Loneliness was conceptualised as a tri-dimensional construct comprised of social-, family-,
and romantic-loneliness, while emotional well-being was operationalised in terms of positive
and negative affect. Higher social-loneliness and family- loneliness predicted higher
negative affect, and higher levels of all three types of loneliness predicted lower positive
affect. Higher levels of family-loneliness and romantic-loneliness predicted a stronger human-dog
bond, which in turn predicted higher positive affect. No relationship was evident between the
human-dog bond and either social-loneliness or negative affect. The human-dog bond mediated the
relationship between family-loneliness and positive affect as well as the
relationship between romantic-loneliness and positive affect. These mediating effects were
of the suppressor-type, indicating that the human-dog bond mitigated the deleterious effects of
family-loneliness and romantic-loneliness on positive affect. These findings demonstrate the
importance of conceptualising loneliness as a multi-dimensional construct in future studies
regarding loneliness and human- animal relationships.

Key words: dog, human-dog bond, loneliness, attachment, emotional well-being Correspondence
concerning this article should be addressed to

The authors of the manuscript would like to thank Dr. Kitty Vivekananda for reading this
manuscript and providing valuable feedback.

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