This is going to come as no surprise to many of you – but research has confirmed that the owner-dog bond is similar to that of parent-child.Scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna (known as Vetmeduni Vienna) have studied the phenomenon known as the ‘secure base effect’ between dogs and their owners.
Human infants use their caregivers as a secure base when it comes to interacting with the environment and the researchers wanted to know if dogs found the same security with their owners.
The research team, led by Lisa Horn, examined the dogs’ reactions under three different conditions: “absent owner”, “silent owner” and “encouraging owner”. The dogs could earn a food reward by manipulating interactive dog toys.
The dogs were much less keen on working for food when their caregivers were not there than when they were. Whether an owner additionally encouraged the dog during the task or remained silent, had little influence on the dog’s level of motivation.
In a follow-up experiment, the research team replaced the owner with an unfamiliar person. The scientists observed that dogs hardly interacted with the strangers and were not much more interested in trying to get the food reward than when the stranger was not there. The dogs were much more motivated only when their owner was present. The researchers concluded that the owner’s presence is important for the animal to behave in a confident manner.
Horn said, “One of the things that really surprised us is that adult dogs behave towards their caregivers like human children do.”
Am I surprised? Not really. (This blog ain’t named Doggy Mom for nothing!)
You can read the journal article “The Importance of the Secure Base Effect for Domestic Dogs – Evidence from a Manipulative Problem-Solving Task” online here.