Human caregiving behaviour and its effect on emotional bonding in dogs

Last changed: 11 June 2021

The objective of this project is to reveal underlying factors contributing to successful relationships between dogs and their owners. The short-term bonding processes in dogs towards humans depending on the person's caregiving style will be investigated systematically.

The project will be based on well-established theories in human psychology associated with attachment and social support, two of the main components contributing to the outcomes of close relationships. We will experimentally 'mimic' typical behaviour strategies used by people with different caregiving styles. Behavioural studies of the dog-human dyad before and after the interaction period will reveal how the relationship develops by looking at how the dog is using the person as a source of comfort and security during challenging situations. An increased understanding about the effects of the different caregiving strategies will hopefully lead to more successful dog-human relationships. This by e.g. modifying an owner's caregiving behaviour according to the dog's needs (which may be especially relevant when rehoming dogs), and the potential of dog-owner dyads may be optimized for e.g. working dogs. Another important area concerns anxious dogs, who may benefit from a certain caregiving style in order to develop a more secure attachment to their owner.

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