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The Bonds Between Dogs and Their Owners

June 5, 2014

We as humans understand the importance of developing friends and relationships as part of our growth to adulthood. Well, the same goes for your pets; they need to develop relationships with their own kind. But for domestic animals the relationship can often go in the opposite direction.

Researchers have found that there are often very strong bonds formed with owners and their pets, much like that of a parent and a child. This is known as the “secure base effect”, and normally found in infant children as they develop and understand the world around them. You see all the time how children gravitate back towards their caregiver, using them as a safety net for interacting with their environment.

A new study has found that dogs become attached in much the same way, and an experiment held in Vienna tested 20 dogs and their reactions during three different settings: having an absent owner, a silent owner with a blindfold on, and an encouraging owner. The dogs had a toy with a treat inside that they had to work out how to get, and researchers found that the owners presence definitely affected the dogs reactions. If the owner wasn’t in the room, the dogs spent less time trying to retrieve the treat. They also tested for separation anxiety with two other tests, but found no effect on the dog’s performance in those experiments. So the

researchers concluded that the dogs weren’t affected by the absence of the owner, just that if the owner was present that the dog needed them as a secure base to interact with the toy.

Researchers then tested whether dogs would complete tasks when their owner was replaced by a stranger. The dogs showed no interest in the strangers, and also didn’t show much interest in the toy or treat whether the stranger was there or not. This further supports the evidence that a secure base effect is specific to the owner and comparable with that found in infant/caregiver relationships.

The truth is that people of all kinds have great relationships with their dogs and vice versa, for example Police Officers and their dogs, or drug dogs and their owners. Pet ownership has also been found to have positive benefits on people’s health, as pets can provide non-human form of social support, and they increase your physical activity, lower systemic blood pressure, diminish stress and the list goes on. The bottom line is love your pets and they will love you back!

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