The role of pet dogs in casual conversations of elderly adults

J Soc Psychol. 1993 Jun;133(3):265-77. doi: 10.1080/00224545.1993.9712145.


Casual conversations were recorded as elderly persons routinely walked their dogs through a familiar mobile home park in the United States. Control observations included walks without dogs by owners and non-owners of dogs. All owners talked to and about their dogs. Transcribed conversations indicated that dogs were a primary focus of conversation. A majority of sentences to dogs were imperatives; the owners were instructing the dogs. Dog owners frequently included dogs' names or nicknames in their sentences when they spoke to the dogs and made reference to the dogs' wishes or needs. Speaking to dogs was also associated with frequent repetition of sentences. Passersby talked to the owners about their dogs whether or not the dogs were present. When dog owners spoke with other people, their conversations often concerned activities that were occurring in the present, whereas conversations of non-owners focused on stories about past events. Dog owners reported taking twice as many daily walks as non-owners. Dog owners also reported significantly less dissatisfaction with their social, physical and emotional states.

MeSH terms

  • Aged / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Dogs*
  • Female
  • Human-Animal Bond*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Loneliness
  • Male
  • Social Isolation
  • Verbal Behavior*