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One dog, but which dog? How researchers guide participants to select dogs in surveys of human–dog relationships
journal contributionposted on 19.02.2019, 00:00 by Kirrilly ThompsonKirrilly Thompson, L O’Dwyer, H Bowen, Bradley SmithBradley Smith
Surveys and questionnaires are regularly used in studies of human–animal relationships. However, little attention has been given to understanding how survey participants are provided with instructions for the selection of a single animal within a multi-pet household, let alone the implications for reporting and interpreting data. We reviewed the instructions for the selection of an individual animal in studies addressing emotional or psychological attachment between people and dogs. By searching multidisciplinary journals from the year 2000 onwards, we identified a total of 128 papers, of which 63 met the inclusion criteria. Where selection criteria/instructions were not clear, authors were contacted. One in five studies (21%, or n = 13) did not report their instructions. When provided, instructions varied considerably. The most commonly provided direction was “favorite/closest relationship” (n = 12, or 19%). The remainder (n = 38, or 60%) were spread across eight different categories. Around half of the studies used a validated questionnaire that already contained an instruction, though a similar proportion of studies implemented author-designed instruments. Overall, the common absence and inconsistency of instructions for individual dog selection is taken to imply that there is no standard expectation or approach for instructions to be reported in studies of human relationships with dogs, or human–animal relationships more generally. We recommend further research on the implication of selection methods to ensure that instructions can be matched with specific research aims. © 2018 ISAZ.