Impact of human caregiving style on the dog-human bond

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Animal Environment and Health

Abstract: Research about attachment behaviours of dogs as a response to human caregiving behaviour as well as the owner’s view of the relationship, is of relevance for the welfare of the dog and the owner. Dogs have been obser-ved showing similar attachment behaviours toward humans as seen in child-ren toward a parent. There are four different attachment styles defined wit-hin the human psychology; insecure anxious, insecure avoidant, secure and disorganised attachment. A person with one type of adult attachment style usually has a corresponding caregiving style. These caregiving styles have been applied within the anthrozoology through surveys and during studies of dog behaviour during challenging situations. The caregiving styles secure and disorganised and their impact on behaviour in Beagles in chal-lenging situations has been studied at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in 2017. In 2019, a similar study was performed with Beag-les at SLU with the two other caregiving styles, insecure avoidant and insecure anxious. The main aim of this master’s thesis was to investigate if there were any correlations between human caregiving styles and the dog’s support seeking behaviour, with focus on the insecure avoidant and insecure anxious caregiving style. This part was performed during a practical study where the behaviour of Beagle dogs was studied during three types of chal-lenging situations; a visual surprise, a sudden noise and during the appro-ach of a strange looking person. These tests were done before and after an interaction period of 15 days. The dogs interacted with an insecure avoidant and an insecure anxious test person during approximately 20 minutes per person and day. Moreover, the adult attachment style (our indirect measure of caregiving) of owners of private dogs and their satisfaction of the relat-ionship with their dog was correlated to the dog’s behaviour during chal-lenging situations. This latter part was performed using volunteer dog owners and their dog’s results from the dog mentality assessment (DMA). The practical study showed that the dogs initiated contact seeking behav-iours toward both persons with an avoidant caregiving style and an anxious caregiving style, suggesting that the dogs’ preferences of caregiving might vary according to their own basic temperament. The survey revealed that owners’ adult attachment style (human caregiving style) correlated with the dog owners’ view of the relationship to their dog, which might have similari-ties with their view of relationship to humans. The response of the dog to the challenging situations measured in the DMA correlated with the quality of the bond between dog and human and might be affected by owner ca-regiving style. Further studies are required to investigate what an impact these relations might have on everyday life for the welfare of dog and hu-man.

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