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Pet Dogs Succeed Where Human Companions Fail: The Presence of Pet Dogs Reduces Pain
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  • Heidi Mauersberger,
  • Anne Springer,
  • Aikaterini Fotopoulou,
  • Christophe Blaison,
  • Ursula Hess
Heidi Mauersberger
Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Anne Springer
University Hospital Basel
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Aikaterini Fotopoulou
University College London
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Christophe Blaison
Université de Paris
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Ursula Hess
Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin
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Social support from family and friends, albeit associated with beneficial health effects, does not always help to cope with pain. This may be because humans elicit mixed expectations of social support and evaluative judgment. The present studies aimed to test whether pet dogs are a more beneficial source of support in a painful situation than human companions, because they are not evaluative. For this, 74 and then 50 women completed a cold-pressor task either in the presence of their own or an unfamiliar pet dog, a friend or an unknown human companion, or alone. In both studies, participants reported less pain and exhibited less pain behavior in dogs' compared to human companions' presence. Furthermore, reactions to pain were moderated by attitudes towards dogs in study 2. This suggests that pet dogs may help individuals to cope with painful situations, especially if the individual in pain generally feels affectionate towards dogs.