Dogs really are like children


People naturally want to bond with each other. But we are not alone. This bonding behavior is not confined to humans. Many other animals also need relationships with each… and with humans. The domesticated animal relationship is complex. Pets can enter deep relationships with their owners. Scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine-Vienna has studied the bond between dogs and their owners and found it has striking similarities to the child-parent relationship.

After 15,000 dogs can live without other dogs

Dogs have been domesticated for about 15,000 years. These animals are so well adapted, they can have an entire lifetime and no interaction with their own species. One aspect of this bond is the “secure base effect”. This is also found in humans. Human infants use their caregivers as a secure base when interacting with the environment. Lisa Horn from the Vetmeduni’s Messerli Research Institute decided to examine this condition in dogs. She looked at dogs in three environments: “absent owner”, “silent owner”, and “encouraging owner”. When the dogs were offered rewards, they were notably not interested with an “absent owner”.

Dogs do not warm to strangers

For a subsequent experiment, Horn replaced the owner with a stranger. The dogs hardly interacted with the strangers and were not very interested in trying to get a food reward. The dogs became more motivated in the presence of their owner. Researchers felt this showed the animal had more confidence with the owner. This behavior demonstrates the secure base effect.

Striking similarities between dogs and children

The striking parallel between the relationships will be investigated further. “One of the things that really surprised us is, that adult dogs behave towards their caregivers like human children do. It will be really interesting to try to find out how this behavior evolved in the dogs with direct comparisons.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, PLoS One


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