Listening Topic: Health – Interview about pet ownership

A. Listen to the interview. Choose the correct answer for each question.

 What were the blood pressure results for pet owners and non-pet owners?

      a   Pet owners and non-pet owners had no difference in their blood pressure levels.

      b   People who owned dogs had lower blood pressure levels compared to non-dog owners.

      c   Getting a dog created higher blood pressure levels in new pet owners.

2   What did Dr. Yang say about pets in the workplace?

      a   They can help workers relax and be more productive.

      b   Everyone should bring a pet to work.

      c   Pets can work in the office

 What was NOT mentioned as a benefit of pet ownership?

      a   Having a pet is inexpensive.

      b   Having a pet can make people more physically active.

      c   Pet owners may live longer and have fewer health problems.

B. Listen to the interview again. As you listen, choose the correct answer for each question. Listen again if necessary.

 How many volunteers were used in the dog ownership study?

      a   6

      b   60

      c   66

 What were the two stressful tasks the groups had to do?

      a   Give a speech and put a hand in icy water.

      b   Give a speech and train a dog.

      c   Give a speech and measure blood pressure levels.

 At the end of the study, which group had the higher blood pressure?

      a   The group that got dogs

      b   The group that did not get dogs

      c   Both groups had the same blood pressure levels.

 According to Dr. Yang, what are some benefits of having a pet in the workplace?

      a   It relaxes employees and makes them more productive.

      b   It teaches employees important skills.

      c   It encourages employees to work together to care for the animal.

 According to the interview, on average, how much longer did heart patients with pets live?

      a   About 1 month

      b   About 6 months

      c   About 1 year

 According to the interview, when considering adopting a pet, what should people think about?

      a   The expenses that pets bring

      b   Whether their home is big enough

      c   Whether they are allergic to animals



1 b   2 a   3 a


1 b   2 a   3 b   4 a   5 c   6 a


A = Radio Host, B = Professor Ellen Yang

A:   On today’s program we’re delighted to have as our guest, Professor Ellen Yang, a research scientist at the University of Buffalo, who has been studying the therapeutic effects of pet ownership. Welcome to the program, Dr. Yang.

B:   Thank you. I’m honored to be here.

A:   Professor Yang, I think most people are familiar with helper dogs that work with the disabled, guide dogs for the Blind, for example. But your team has found some intriguing results measuring stress levels among pet owners and non-pet owners.

B:   That’s right. In a study done at the University of Buffalo, we discovered that the blood pressure of pet owners, in this case dog owners, rose only a fraction of those who did not have dogs when experiencing stressful situations. The study involved 60 volunteers who were all given two stressful tasks to complete: One was giving a speech in front of an audience, and the other task was putting a hand in cold ice water. Their blood pressure levels were taken before the stressful tasks and then during the stressful tasks.

Half of those volunteers were then given dogs. They adopted these dogs and then, six months later all 60 of the volunteers were brought back to perform the same two tasks again. Again, their blood pressure was measured before and after. The result was that during the stressful tasks-giving a speech and holding their hands in cold water-the blood pressure of the dog owners was much lower than that of the other group. So, it seems that although they were all put through the same situations, the dog owners suffered less stress.

A:   Wow. That’s amazing.

B:   Yes, it is. Wat’s more, we later gave the other group dogs as well, and we found after six months their blood pressure had dropped as well.

A:   Incredible. To achieve these kinds of stress reducing results, does it matter what kind of animal a person has?

B:   No. Interestingly enough, we believe the effect is the same regardless of the pet involved. In another study we conducted, we measured blood pressure and muscle tension in a group of people before and after watching fish in an aquarium. Those that watched the fish for several minutes were much more relaxed and had lower blood pressure levels than those that did not look at the aquarium.

A:   So it seems that if we lead a stressful life and don’t have a pet, we should maybe run out and get one.

B:   Yes, it does seem that way. And, it’s not only street levels that are being affected by our animal friends. There is increasing proof that having a pet at work seems to relax workers and at the same time make them more productive.

A:   Yes, I think I’ve heard of that, especially in causal work environments like in some high in tech companies, for example.

B:   Yes, but we’ve also seen this in busy professional settings such as law and accounting firms.

A:   Really?

B:   Oh, yes. However, this is not something that’s suitable for everyone. Before instituting a pet friendly office, everyone involved needs to agree that it will work for that particular office since, you know, many people have allergies caused by cats, for example. Additionally, there need to be guidelines in place to determine where bathroom and food and water areas are. So, although having pets in the workplace can make an office more productive, care needs to be taken to make sure it’s a situation that will work for everyone.

A:   True. I think I’ve heard of pet therapy also being used in prisons and nursing homes.

B:   Absolutely. Caring for an animal can be very therapeutic. It helps prisoners develop a loving relationship with a living creature and therefore, when these people have been released, they’re used to the socializing influence an animal can have. And, in nursing homes, when animals are brought in, the people there cheer up, laugh and talk much more. It’s really very dramatic. I think we are just now beginning to realize the effects of having animals as companions.

A:   Yes, it certainly seems that way. In addition to lowering stress levels, is there anything else you would like to tell us on this subject?

B:   Oh, certainly. Other studies have shown that elderly pet owners feel needed and less lonely, and have a sense of responsibility to their pet, and so therefore they live longer than those who don’t care for an animal. Additionally, in one study pet owners with heart problems lived an average of one year longer after leaving the hospital than those that did not have a pet. One obvious result is the increase in physical activity a dog owner enjoys by walking a dog. This added exercise increases blood flow to the brain and can produce endorphins-natural ‘feel good’ hormones that add to an overall sense of well-being.

A:   Any last word of advice for our listeners?

B:   Yes, one note of caution. Before getting any animal, potential pet owners, need to remember that this is a long term relationship on which the animal’s welfare depends. People must realize that there is a significant time commitment in terms of caring for an animal, and that in addition to purchasing food, toys, cages and what-have-you, veterinarian bills can be very pricey. Pet owners have to be ready for that responsibility and be sure that having a pet won’t create stress for them.

A:   Right, I guess anyone listening should make sure the pet they choose makes sense for their particular home situation.

B:   Absolutely. One problem we really want to avoid is having pets returned to shelters because owners get home with their new family members, and then realize they are unequipped to take care of them.

A:   Right. Well, thank you again Professor Yang for coming today.

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