Human and Dog Relation

A Study about relation between Human and Dog

(source : Sustainability journal –

Dogs have a great influence on humans. Understanding of the emotional bond between dog and human is important for the way we decide to treat our dogs. The everyday interactions also affect the welfare of the dogs.

Veterinary agronomist Therese Rehn is presenting her research findings in a licentiate thesis at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences SLU. What is the emotional relation between human and dog? Is it possible to evaluate whether a certain dog owner has a closer relationship with their dog than others? And what actually does the dog do when left alone? were the questions she had put to herself.

Methods of measurement are needed

For the evaluaton of the relationship between dog and its owner, reliable methods of measurement are needed. The Ainsworth Strange Situation Procedure (ASSP) is a test designed to investigate the bond between small children (1-2 years old) and their parents.

– This test has previously been used in several studies to evaluate the relationship between dogs and their owners, since the bond between dog and owner has been likened to that between a child and its parents, says Therese Rehn and continues:

– Greater knowledge of, and understanding for, different types of association between the dog and its owner could help identify the causes of conflicts in the relationship which can underlie behavioural problems.

In her thesis, Therese Rehn applied ASSP as a tool for evaluating the bond between dog and human. The results showed that behaviour on reunion and search for nearness are reliable indicators of the dog’s emotional bond to a person. She does not, however, think that ASSP is a good tool for further research since the actual order of the events in a test situation has a clear effect on the dog’s behaviour.

Dogs on their own

One of the criteria that two individuals may be considered to have an emotional bond is that they feel distress when involuntarily separated. This could also cause problems for dogs in our modern society where, in most cases, we have no opportunity to be together with our dogs over large periods of the day.

Precisely the reaction of dogs on their own was investigated in the thesis. Therese Rehn decided to study how dogs which do not suffer from separation anxiety are affected by the length of time over which they are left on their own at home. It was found that the dogs were active over most of the time (92-97 per cent) when they were alone and that their behaviour did not change over time.

On the other hand, dogs behaved differently depending on the length of time when the owner came back home. Dogs were more active and attentive on reunion after two to four hours’ separation than after 30 minutes’ separation. They shook themselves more and licked their lips after a longer time of separation. The dogs also wagged their tails more and sought more contact after the longer periods of separation regardless of how the owner behaved on reunion.

– Such behaviour should be taken into consideration in further research on the feelings of animals, says Therese Rehn.

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