Your dog’s behaviour – what does it say about your relationship?

Research by Christy L Hoffman of Canisius College in New York indicates that the bond between you and your dog may be the key to their behaviour.

Photo courtesy of Canisius College

Photo courtesy of Canisius College


The study looked at human-animal attachment among 60 dog-owning families, including parents and children.  Participants completed questionnaires that asked about their attachment to their pet dogs, their levels of responsibility for the animals, such as feeding and walking them, and their general attitudes toward pets. Participants were also asked to rate their dogs on behavioral characteristics, including excitability, trainability, stranger fear and aggression, separation problems and attention-seeking behavior.


  • Those individuals who had more positive feelings about pets, in general, and who took more responsibility for the care of their dogs, compared to others in their families, had higher attachments to their dogs. (Probably not a huge surprise to most of us).
  • Owners, regardless of gender, age or race, had a greater attachment to their dogs when the animals scored high on trainability and separation-related problems. In other words, if the dog is well-behaved and likes to socialize with humans, then the bond between the dog and its owner is greater.
  • The more dogs demonstrate attention-seeking behavior with their adult owners, the more attached these owners are likely to be with their dogs. Interestingly, however, this made no difference to the children in the study.

Hoffman thinks that the last finding is indicative of adults having busy lives with parental and work responsibilities – so they are most likely to bond with dogs that seek out their attention.

This research was a collaboration with researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania and has been published in the  the journal  Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin.

Source:  Canisius College media release


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