Attitudes of children and adults to dogs in Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom

Nelly Lakestani, Morag L. Donaldson, Marina Verga, Natalie Waran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study was to create and carry out a preliminary assessment of an attitude toward dogs scale, for preschool children and adults, in different European countries. Attitudes to animals may differ between different cultures; however, differences in attitudes to pets between European countries have not yet been investigated. Because exchange of information between the European countries is increasing, investigating differences in cultures is important for creating an effective European dog bite prevention program.

Two short questionnaires were created, one to measure children’s attitudes and another to measure adults’ attitudes to dogs. These were administered to 107 nursery school children (mean age = 4.5 years) and 120 University students (mean age = 21.3 years) in Milan, Barcelona, and Edinburgh.

Reliability testing of the questionnaire yielded a Cronbach’s alpha coefficient of 0.77 for the children’s questionnaire and of 0.73 for the adults’ questionnaire, suggesting that the questionnaires reliably measure attitudes to dogs. Children who owned dogs were found to have a more positive attitude to dogs than children who did not own dogs (U = 1347, P < 0.001). Similarly, adults who owned dogs had a more positive attitude to dogs than those who did not own dogs (U = 4027.5, P < 0.001). No significant differences in attitudes to dogs were found between the different countries and genders. Surprisingly, adults who had been bitten by dogs had a significantly more positive attitude than those who had not been bitten in the past (U = 770.5, P < 0.05).

These results suggest that it is possible to use a questionnaire to measure attitudes of very young children to dogs and, because no differences were found between the different countries, it should be possible to use a single dog bite prevention program for Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, rather than having to modify it to suit different cultures. In addition, the attitudes to dogs’ questionnaire may be used in various other contexts such as to assess the effectiveness in changing attitudes of a welfare education program on dogs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-129
JournalJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011


  • children
  • attitude scale
  • dogs
  • cross-cultural
  • dog bite prevention


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