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Pet-owner relationship is similar to child-carer according to research

Posted by: Chris Taylor  Date: 22/06/2013   Category: Latest News

Ever notice how a dog feels a lot more comfortable when the owner applies its dog harness instead of a stranger? That’s because the relationship between pet owners and dogs is ‘highly similar’ to the connection between parents and young children.

That’s according to findings researched by scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, cited by esciencenews.com, which have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The “secure base effect” is one of the reasons why the bond between humans and dogs is so strong, according to researchers.

In infants, they use their care-givers as a ‘secure base’ when it comes to interacting with the environment but the effect with dogs has not been well examined, reports sciencedaily.com.

As a result, the researchers decided to take a closer look and examined the dogs’ reactions under three different conditions: “absent owner,” “silent owner” and “encouraging owner”. In the experiment, the dogs could earn a food reward by manipulating interactive dog toys. However, the dogs were ‘much less keen’ on working when their caregivers were not there than when they were.

To follow up the experiment, the owner was replaced with an unfamiliar person. They observed a lack of interaction and were not much more interested in trying to get the food reward than when the owner was not there.

As a result, this study provides the evidence of a “secure base effect” found in dog-owner and child-caregiver relationships.

One of the researchers, Lisa Horn, commented on the experiment: “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 behaviour evolved in the dogs with direct comparisons.”