Scientists to study dog food buyers’ motivations

Scientists solicited the public to participate in a survey about the behaviors that dog owners associate with their pets.

photo by Andrea Gantz | Flickr
photo by Andrea Gantz | Flickr

A team of University of Illinois animal scientists want to study the psychological motivations that drive dog owners’ choices about their dogs’ diet and lifestyle. To do this, they solicited the public to participate in a survey about the behaviors that dog owners associate with their pets in terms of nutritional needs, food enjoyment and lifestyle.

“We want to know what are the beliefs and knowledge that pet owners have in terms of their lifestyle and dietary choices, and how they relate that to their pets,” said Maria Cattai de Godoy, an assistant professor in companion animal and comparative nutrition at the University of Illinois, in a press release.

Humanization and pet food buying decisions

While the humanization of pets has led to dramatic shifts in the pet food industry, the psychology behind that phenomenon hasn’t received much scientific attention.

“Pet foods have really diversified in recent years, but we still don’t know the market factors and feeding strategies driving that diversification,” Godoy said. “We know it stems from the humanization of pets, and the closer animal-human bond that we have developed with dogs and cats for the last several decades. However, very little is known about whether dog owners base their decisions on personal beliefs, professional advice, or empirical evidence.”

Godoy and graduate student Juliana Nogueira are asking dog owners to complete a survey about their own lifestyle and nutrition as well as their dog’s. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. The researchers are hoping to receive at least 3,000 responses.

The researchers think they may use the survey results to develop educational materials for owners about their dog’s nutritional needs and wellbeing. They may also share their results with the pet food industry to develop products tailored to owners’ habits and preferences, as well as dogs’ nutritional needs.

The survey is available at the following URLs:

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