To prevent potential problems in the relationship between people and their dogs, it is important to engage in a thoughtful decision-making process with regard to acquiring a dog. To map the most important elements in the decision-making process, a social cognitive model was applied using seven psychological constructs: perceived advantages of having a dog; perceived disadvantages; the social norm; self-efficacy; optimism; expected commitment; and the intention to acquire a dog. People who were planning to acquire a dog within one year were asked to fill in an online questionnaire and another one 14 months later. The social cognitive constructs were operationalized in the baseline questionnaire, and in the follow-up participants were asked to report whether they had actually acquired a dog during the 14-month interval. The sample (n = 588) largely consisted of females (88%) and those who had a high level of education (64%). The mean age of the participants was 40.9 years. The data showed significant relations among the decision-making variables, and significant differences between demographic variables related to these. In univariate longitudinal analyses, several social cognitive variables significantly predicted acquiring a dog in the 14-month period. When intention to acquire a dog was entered into the multivariate model, it remained the only predictor (OR = 2.16, p < 0.001); the model explained 33% of the variance in acquiring a dog. It was possible to assess the main constructs that play a role in decision making regarding acquiring a dog: Most baseline measures were related to actual later behavior, also when taking into account all changes in other internal and external factors that may have taken place. Insight into the decision-making process makes it possible to intervene in it for the good of people, dogs, and their relationships.
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