The role of relationships between adults and canine companions: The impact on personal growth and well-being

Open Access
Kramer, Lorie Renee
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 16, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Patricia Angelica Cranton, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Ann Swartz, Committee Member
  • Dr Richard Fiene, Committee Member
  • adult education
  • human-animal bond
  • anthrozoology
  • learning through relationships/connections
  • attunement
  • attachment to pets
ABSTRACT This qualitative study used narrative analysis to explore the role of relationships between adults and their canine companions and the role of this relationship in personal growth and well-being. The theoretical frameworks to inform the study consisted of attachment theory and a blend of relational theory and connected knowing. The study focused on understanding adults’ relationships with their canine companions and, specifically, how this particular relationship contributes to personal growth and well-being in adulthood. Data consisted of participant narratives shared during interviews. In addition, participants showed a favorite photograph of their canine companion(s) and shared the story behind the photograph. Through their own stories, ten participants descriptively shared how the relationships with their canine companions have fostered their personal growth and promoted their well-being. The narratives were individually and collectively analyzed. The findings revealed commonalities across the narratives. First, participants considered their canine companions to be family members and for some participants the canine companions filled a void in their lives. Several participants shared how personally rewarding it was to rescue a canine in need of a home. Second, the canine companions taught the participants about unconditional love, patience, and responsibility/accountability. Third, spending time with the canine companions, the intuitiveness within the relationship, and the differences in canines’ personalities contributed to the promotion of well-being. The study concludes with implications for theory and practice. The findings have implications for the adult education field as growth and learning is not limited to connections and relationships with other humans, but also occurs through relationships with canine companions.