Study shows that dog-owner relationship is similar to that between a baby and its caregiver
A recent study has suggested that the relationship between a god and its owner, is very similar to one between an infant and its mother or father.
The research was carried out by the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, and it found that dogs often display characteristics called the ‘secure base effect’ which is more commonly associated with babies.
The theory put forward is that infant humans often use their caregivers as a secure base when it comes to interacting with their environment.
After many experiments the researchers have suggested that there is a similar bond found between dogs and their owners. Lisa Horn, one of the researchers, examined dogs’ reactions under three different conditions. These were ‘absent owner’; ‘silent owner’ and ‘encouraging owner’.
In the experiments, the dogs were able to earn a food reward by manipulating interactive dog toys. And, the results of the experiment showed that the canines were much less keen on working for food, when their owners weren’t in the room.
It was also shown that the amount of encouragement a dog received from its owner, had very little influence on the animal’s level of motivation.
To follow these experiments up, Horn and her colleagues then replaced the owner with an unfamiliar person. They discovered that the dogs hardly interacted with the strangers and weren’t any more interested in trying to get the food reward than when the stranger was not in the room.
Due to the facts that the dogs were much more motivated when their owner was present, the researchers concluded that the owner’s presence is important for the dog to be able to behave confidently.
Horn has stated that this study now provides the first set of evidence for the similarity between the ‘secure base effect’ found in dog-owner and child-caregiver relationships.