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Relationship between dog owner behaviour and dog attachment security in the strange situation

By J. M. White, A. E. McBride and E. Redhead


The aim of this study was to determine if owner behavior predicted dog attachment security in Ainsworth et al., 1978 M.S. Ainsworth, M.C. Belhar, E. Waters and S. Wall, Patterns of Attachment: A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ (1978).Ainsworth et al. (1978) Strange Situation Test. <br/><br/>Fifty-two owners/dogs participated in 8 x 3 minute episodes: dog/owner; dog/owner/stranger; dog/stranger; dog alone; and reunions dog/owner. Data was collected through continuous time sampling of owner behavior (talking to dog, touching dog, responding to attention seeking and command giving) and dog attachment behavior (secure base effects, proximity seeking, comfort seeking, distress, and latency to play/explore). <br/><br/>Four dogs clusters (k-means Cluster Analysis) resulted: Secure (n = 16) (moderate greeting duration, low distress behaviors when alone, moderate comfort seeking from owner, ability to rebound quickly to play and explore); Insecure/Anxious (n = 10) (high activity, high distress, low comfort seeking); Insecure/Passive (n = 16) (high levels of distress, high comfort seeking, low activity levels), and Avoidant (n = 9) (low responsiveness to owners, low greeting duration, low distress and low comfort seeking). <br/><br/>Between group ANOVA with Bonferroni corrections revealed significant differences for owner talk (F(3,47) = 3.64, p = .02) and owner touch (F(3,47) = 5.16, p = .01). Owners of Avoidant dogs (M = 16.88, SD = 4.55) talked to them significantly more than dogs in the Insecure/Passive (M = 11.70, SD = 2.67) or Anxious clusters (M = 13.26, SD = 3.19), but petted them significantly less (M = 11.35, SD = 6.03). Passive dogs were petted significantly more (M = 17.73, SD = 3.59). The results suggest that attachment insecurity is associated with low levels of owner talk and high levels of touch, and a weak owner/dog bond characterized by dog avoidance, by high owner talk and low owner touch. Attachment security is characterized by moderate owner talk and low touch. <br/><br/>These results could be used to moderate owner behavior during stressful events such as veterinary examination to reduce dog insecurity

Year: 2010
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Provided by: e-Prints Soton
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