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How You Love Pets
Texas Tech University Professor Marshall, who also shows dogs, reveals how your love for people affects your attitudes towards pets.
January 2019 | TheDogPress.com
Philip Marshall, Ph.D., Professor TTU
Do you love your animals? That may depend on what kind of lover you are,
according to a new study from the Texas Tech University Department of
In this context, “lover” does not have a sexual connotation but instead
describes merely the fact that a person loves another person. That love can be
broken down into six recognizable styles:
• Eros – an intense, passionate love that is physical, mental and emotional
• Ludus – a game-playing love that doesn't seek serious involvement, instead
wanting to enjoy different partners for different reasons
• Storge – a platonic love based on friendship, fidelity and similar values and
• Pragma – a pragmatic, practical love
• Mania – a possessive, dependent, anxious, emotional-rollercoaster type of love
• Agape – a compassionate, generous love
These love styles, identified by sociologist John Alan Lee in 1973, have been
studied extensively by Susan and Clyde Hendrick, both Horn Professors Emeritus
in the Department of Psychological Sciences. Their colleague Philip Marshall, a
professor in human-animal interaction who breeds, shows, competes and trains
dogs in his spare time, worked in collaboration with the Hendricks to show that
these love styles relate closely to a person’s attitudes toward pets.
In the Cognitive Anthrozoology Lab, the trio and doctoral students Michelle
Guthrie and Erin Logue surveyed 436 student volunteers from an introductory
psychology course, using two major scales: the Pet Attitude Scale and the
Hendricks Love Style Scale. They found that erotic lovers, those who view their
relationship partner in a favorable way and desire closeness and intimacy with
romantic partners, also view pets favorably. In contrast, ludic lovers, the game
players who often have many partners and may be dishonest or manipulative,
generally view pets in an unfavorable way.
The survey also assessed the effects of people’s relationship satisfaction and
degree of social support on their views of pets. They found that individuals in
high-quality romantic relationships and those who feel supported by people close
to them share a favorable view of pets.
“Our research suggests it might be a good idea for potential close relationship
partners to have compatible attitudes towards pets,” Marshall said. “People who
already have, or who want to have, pets in their lives might want to know how
their potential romantic partner feels about pets. That may not be the deciding
factor in pursuing a relationship, but given the often touted love that people
say they have towards their pets, assessing compatibility about pets might
provide some useful information.”
While most of the findings were in line with the researchers’ hypotheses, they
did contain at least one unexpected result.
“We were a bit surprised to find that the link between close relationship
constructs and pet attitudes was stronger for men than for women, given that
previous research has shown that in other contexts women generally have more
favorable attitudes towards animals,” Marshall said.
Participants in the study were between 19 and 22 years of age, and 42 percent
were in a current romantic relationship. More than three-fourths (78 percent)
reported owning a pet – mostly dogs, but cat and other animal owners were in the
sample – and 88 percent were from a pet-loving home.
Marshall said the group’s forthcoming research will focus on the ways people
express love for their pets and how those mirror human-human love styles.
“As evidenced by the archeological record beginning many thousands of years ago,
the bond between people and their dogs, for example, is undeniably the strongest
between humans and other species with whom we share this planet,” Marshall said.
“It is no wonder to me that, as our complex styles of romantic expressions have
evolved, our attitudes towards companion animals also should have been
We thank Dr. Marshal and Texas Tech University, College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychological
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