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Do disrupted early attachments affect the relationship between guide dogs and blind owners?

By G. Fallani, E. P. Previde, P. Valsecchi

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The study investigated the affectional bond developed by dogs (Canis familiaris) towards their human companions during the selection process to become guide dogs and compared this bond with that formed by pet dogs with their owners. One hundred and nine dog-owner pairs were tested using a modified version of the Strange Situation Test: custody dogs-puppy walkers (n=34), apprentice dogs-trainers (n=26), guide dogs-blind owners (n=25) and pet dogs-owners (n=24). Twenty-six behaviours were scored using a 5 s point sampling method and two vocal behaviours were recorded as bouts. Factor analysis carried out on 24 mutually exclusive behaviours highlighted two different profiles of response. A relaxed reaction characterised by a high play activity was distinctive of custody and apprentice dogs, whereas an anxious reaction characterised by a high degree of proximity seeking behaviours was distinctive of pet dogs. Guide dogs were intermediate between these two extremes, expressing their attachment to the owners but showing a more controlled emotional reaction. This finding suggests that guide dogs can be viewed as "working pets". Furthermore, the experimental set-up, characterised by the presence of a frightening stimulus, revealed that untrained dogs (pets and custody dogs) were more fearful than trained dogs (guide dogs and apprentice dogs). Finally, differences in temperament emerged between retrievers: Golden retrievers showed a higher level of affection demand while Labrador retrievers were more playful. Overall, these findings show that in spite of separations from previous attachment figures, guide dogs established with their blind owner a rather good and secure affectional bond.

Date 2006
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 100
Issue 3/4
Pages 241-257
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Istituto di Psicologia, Universita degli Studi di Milano, via Tommaso Pini 1, 20134 Milano, Italy.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Attachment behavior
  3. Blindness
  4. Bonds
  5. Dog Breeds
  6. Dogs
  7. Guide dogs
  8. Mammals
  9. peer-reviewed
  10. Pets and companion animals
  11. Primates
  12. temperament
  1. peer-reviewed