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The role of the emotional relationship with humans on dog welfare

Rehn, Therese (2011). The role of the emotional relationship with humans on dog welfare. Uppsala, Sweden : Sveriges lantbruksuniv. , Avhandling (Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Institutionen för husdjurens miljö och hälsa), 1652-750X ; 2011:4
ISBN 978-91-576-9033-3
[Licentiate thesis]

[img] PDF (Licentiate thesis Therese Rehn)


The overall aim with this thesis was to identify reliable ways to assess the emotional bond between dogs and humans and to investigate the effect of length of separation from the owner on dog behaviour upon reunion.

In Study I, an evaluation was made as to whether the Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Procedure (ASSP), developed in child psychology, can be reliably transferred to investigate attachment between dogs and humans. In a balanced cross-over design, 12 research dogs participated in the ASSP in two different treatments, where the target figure was either a familiar person or a stranger. Results showed that dogs clearly preferred to be in physical contact with the familiar person, indicating that the dogs discriminated between people according to their previous experience of the relationship. They also showed more intense greeting behaviour towards the familiar person. However, there was no evidence to support the earlier proposal that the emotional relationship with a familiar person is of the ‘secure base’ attachment type, since the results for this comparison were similar when the target figure in the ASSP was a stranger. In paper II, the behaviour and cardiac activity of privately owned dogs without separation anxiety was investigated when they were left alone at home for 0.5, 2 and 4h. Each period of separation was preceded and followed by a 10-min period during which the owner was present and could interact with the dog. It was found that dogs were inactive most of the time they were alone and that their behaviour did not change over time. However, the length of time left alone significantly influenced the dogs’ behaviour when the owner returned. After longer separation periods (2 and 4 h), dogs had a higher heart rate and expressed a higher frequency of behaviours previously suggested to indicate arousal (body shaking and lip licking) during reunion with the owner. Dogs also displayed more tail wagging and initiated more contact with their owners after longer times of separation, regardless of owner behaviour.

It was concluded that the ASSP is an inappropriate method to assess the emotional bond between dogs and humans due to inherent order effects in the procedure. Instead, dog behaviour upon reunion with their attachment figure is proposed as a better and more robust measure to assess the quality of the emotional bond.

Authors/Creators:Rehn, Therese
Title:The role of the emotional relationship with humans on dog welfare
Series Name/Journal:Avhandling (Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Institutionen för husdjurens miljö och hälsa)
Year of publishing :2011
Number of Pages:53
IRehn, T., McGowan, R.T.S & Keeling, L.J. An evaluation of the Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Procedure (ASSP) to assess the emotional bond between dogs and humans. Manuscript.
IIRehn, T. & Keeling, L.J. (2011). The effect of time left alone at home on dog welfare. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 129, 129-135.
Place of Publication:Uppsala, Sweden
Publisher:Dept. of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Associated Programs and Other Stakeholders:SLU - Research Areas for the Future > Future Animal Health and Welfare (until Jan 2017)
ISBN for printed version:978-91-576-9033-3
Publication Type:Licentiate thesis
Full Text Status:Public
Subjects:Obsolete subject words > VETERINARY MEDICINE > Ethology of domestic animals
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 4 Agricultural Sciences > 402 Animal and Dairy Science > Animal and Dairy Science.
Agrovoc terms:dogs, behaviour, human behaviour, animal welfare, animal learning
Keywords:dog welfare, dog-human interaction, dog-human bond, greeting behaviour, positive arousal, attachment
Permanent URL:
ID Code:8081
Faculty:VH - Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science
Department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Environment and Health
External funders:FORMAS
Deposited By: Therese Rehn
Deposited On:21 Apr 2011 07:31
Metadata Last Modified:02 Dec 2014 10:45

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