Researchers reveal losing a dog can be as hard as losing a loved one


Have you ever wondered how would you react if you are about to choose whose life to save, a human’s or a dog’s? This question was actually being studied and many research has been done. Even though it may seem surprising, the answer most people have given is that they would opt for the dog’s live over the human’s.

When an average person is presented with news and headlines about dogs who are suffering and a human being who being in the same situation, people tend to empathize with the animals.

This research was conducted by the sociologists and anthropologists from Northeastern University and the University of Colorado and they are eager to find the reasons why it is like that.

256 college students were part of the study. They received various stories about humans and dogs which weren’t treated well. Then they were asked to express their feelings and empathy for the one or the other. Most of them have chosen the dogs.

The level of compassion towards the dogs was much higher. “We also found more empathy for  human children, puppies, and fully-grown dogs than for adult humans. Age makes a difference for empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims.”


Another similar study, conducted by a British charity asked people to donate funds as a part of a fundraising campaign, but two different versions of the same story were used. The text was the same on both, saying:

“Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful suffering?” The difference was in the pictures used. One featured the real Harrison, diagnosed with Duchenneand the other featured a dog.

When the campaign was over, the charity donation website featuring the dog managed to attract twice as many click compared to the one with the boy. The actual numbers were 230, compared to 111.

Concluding, the researchers said:

“It may be that many people appraise dogs as vulnerable, regardless of their age, when compared to adult humans. In other words, dogs, whether young or adult, are seen as possessing many of the same qualities associated with human babies; they are seen as unable to fully protect themselves, compared to adult humans.”

“We are more able to empathize with someone whom we deem to have little blame for their circumstances. “Dogs and babies are the definition of didn’t-ask-for-this and we are more likely to rush to support them,” psychotherapist Justin Lioi said.



Dr. Kathrine McAleese, who is a sociologist and systemic psychotherapist, has clients who work extensively with dogs. She said she sees this phenomenon regularly. “People who fit this study’s outcomes will often view animals as innocents and humans as not having the same purity,” the doctor declared. “When I ask them why they will spend money on their dog’s health, fitness, nutrition, yet not on themselves, the overwhelming answer I get is ‘because my dog deserves it.’”

However, those who have a very close relationship with dogs, were not surprised at all about the results. Dog trainer Russel Hartstein believes that “dogs provide unconditional love and many times people form stronger bonds with their pet than with another human.” He also says that great number of his clients treat their dogs the same way they treat, or will treat, their children. They provide them with everything they need for the sake of having great and comfortable life. “From going to school for behavior and training, health, nutrition, wellness, enrichment and play, people form very close intimate bonds with their best friends.”

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