Its Beach: Are Dog Owners More Social Than Non-Dog Owners?
David Shaw, Erin Marie McDonald, Suzanne Ewerlof
What was your hypothesis?
Having a dog increases social interaction with strangers.
What indicator did you measure?
Social bridging, interpersonal encounters and interactions
How did you measure it?
Person’s engagement in conversation with strangers (number of questions asked), length of conversation, number of interactions with strangers
What did you learn?
Our research showed that dog owners at Its Beach were more likely to interact with people that they don’t know. They were also more interested in learning about the other person and spent more time interacting. Its Beach seems to be a very social place where people appreciate spending quality time with their dog and others.
Our team took a two-pronged approach toward answering our research question. David and Erin Marie engaged in a participatory observation survey at Its Beach. The participant observation researchers approached individuals with dogs and without dogs, with and without an off-leash dog. Following a brief scripted interaction, the researchers coded the social interactions based on a predefined rubric that measured depth of social interaction. Following that Erin Marie and Suzanne returned to the beach and surveyed both dog owners and non-dog owners on their visit to the beach and general social interactions.
From our slightly unscientific, fast and dirty methods, we found that dog owners were likely to speak with people they don’t know at Its Beach. Based on our participant observation research, we noticed that dog owners were likely to score an average 6.45 engagement score compared to non-dog owners who scored a 4.65 engagement score.
According to our survey, dog owners and non-dog owners believed that Its Beach is a more social place due to the dogs. Dog owners self-reported a higher interaction with strangers than non-dog owners. We found that dog owners are 3.5x more likely to engage with strangers at Its Beach than non-dog owners. One non-dog owner noted, “People who visit Its Beach come with an open mind and are less stuffy.”