Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Are Dogs 'Kids?' Owner-dog relationships share striking similarities to parent-child relationships

Date:
June 21, 2013
Source:
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Summary:
People have an innate need to establish close relationships with other people. But this natural bonding behavior is not confined to humans: many animals also seem to need relationships with others of their kind. For domesticated animals the situation is even more complex and pets may enter deep relationships not only with conspecifics but also with their owners. Scientists have investigated the bond between dogs and their owners and have found striking similarities to the parent-child relationship in humans.

People have an innate need to establish close relationships with other people. But this natural bonding behaviour is not confined to humans: many animals also seem to need relationships with others of their kind. For domesticated animals the situation is even more complex and pets may enter deep relationships not only with conspecifics but also with their owners.
Credit: © azazello / Fotolia

People have an innate need to establish close relationships with other people. But this natural bonding behaviour is not confined to humans: many animals also seem to need relationships with others of their kind. For domesticated animals the situation is even more complex and pets may enter deep relationships not only with conspecifics but also with their owners. Scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna) have investigated the bond between dogs and their owners and have found striking similarities to the parent-child relationship in humans.

Related Articles


Their findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Domestic dogs have been closely associated with humans for about 15,000 years. The animals are so well adapted to living with human beings that in many cases the owner replaces conspecifics and assumes the role of the dog's main social partner. The relationship between pet owners and dogs turns out to be highly similar to the deep connection between young children and their parents.

The importance of the owner to the dog

One aspect of the bond between humans and dogs is the so-called "secure base effect." This effect is also found in parent-child bonding: human infants use their caregivers as a secure base when it comes to interacting with the environment. Until recently the "secure base effect" had not been well examined in dogs. Lisa Horn from the Vetmeduni's Messerli Research Institute therefore decided to take a closer look at the behaviour of dogs and their owners. She 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. Surprisingly, they seemed 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 animal's level of motivation.

When the owner is replaced by a stranger

In a follow-up experiment, Horn and her colleagues 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 this person 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.

Why do adult dogs behave like human children?

The study provides the first evidence for the similarity between the "secure base effect" found in dog-owner and child-caregiver relationships. This striking parallel will be further investigated in direct comparative studies on dogs and children. As Horn says, "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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lisa Horn, Ludwig Huber, Friederike Range. The Importance of the Secure Base Effect for Domestic Dogs – Evidence from a Manipulative Problem-Solving Task. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (5): e65296 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065296

Cite This Page:

Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Are Dogs 'Kids?' Owner-dog relationships share striking similarities to parent-child relationships." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130621095502.htm>.
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. (2013, June 21). Are Dogs 'Kids?' Owner-dog relationships share striking similarities to parent-child relationships. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130621095502.htm
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Are Dogs 'Kids?' Owner-dog relationships share striking similarities to parent-child relationships." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130621095502.htm (accessed January 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, January 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How To: Mixed Green Salad Topped With Camembert Cheese

How To: Mixed Green Salad Topped With Camembert Cheese

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) — Learn how to make a mixed green salad topped with a pan-seared camembert cheese in only a minute! Music: Courtesy of Audio Network. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) — Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage into space. The aquatic crustaceans, known as Daphnia, can be used as a miniature model for biomedical research, and their reproductive and swimming behaviour will be tested for signs of stress while on board the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Husky Puppy Plays With Ferret

Husky Puppy Plays With Ferret

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) — It looks like this 2-month-old Husky puppy and the family ferret are going to be the best of friends. Look at how much fun they&apos;re having together! Credit to &apos;Vira&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Model Flying, Walking Drone After Vampire Bats

Scientists Model Flying, Walking Drone After Vampire Bats

Buzz60 (Jan. 26, 2015) — Swiss scientists build a new drone that can both fly and walk, modeling it after the movements of common vampire bats. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins