The results of the research are based on data from a working animal shelter and could help improve the pet adoption process. "What we show in this study is that what people say they want in a dog isn't always in line with what they choose," said Samantha Cohen, who led the study as a Ph.D. student in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
Using the results of this study and by focusing on a subset of desired traits, researchers believe that they could make animal adoption more efficient and successful. Cohen conducted the study while also volunteering as an adoption counselor at an animal shelter.
"It was my responsibility to match dogs to people based on their preferences, but I often noticed that visitors would ultimately adopt some other dog than my original suggestion. This study provides a reason. Only some desired traits tend to be fulfilled above chance, which means they may have a larger impact on dog selection," Cohen said.
The researchers categorised dogs based upon 13 traits - age, sex, color, size, purebred status, previous training, nervousness, protectiveness, intelligence, excitability, energy level, playfulness, and friendliness. They surveyed the preferences of 1,229 people who visited dogs at an animal shelter, including 145 who decided to make an adoption.
Although most participants in the dog adoption study listed many traits they preferred—with "friendliness" as the most popular—they ultimately selected dogs most consistent with just a few preferences, like age and playfulness, suggesting that others, like colour or purebred status, exerted less influence on decision-making.
Owning a dog will help you find love
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