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Interspecific attachment: social bonds between humans and their 'best friends'

By Morag G. Ryan

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Attachment refers to an individual seeking and maintaining close proximity to another individual. Although, relatively few studies have examined attachment in an interspecific context the human-dog bond has recently gained a great deal of attention, as this relationship has been subjected to thousands of years of co-evolutionary history. I examined the nature of the human-dog bond in the context of an amended Ainsworth’s Strange Situation procedure, in which dogs experience a series of separation and reuniting events from their owners and are introduced to a stranger. Several facets of attachment were tested, predominantly preference (physical proximity and contact) and separation-induced stress. Dogs and owners also provided saliva samples to obtain physiological indicators of stress: cortisol (CORT) and chromogranin A (CgA). Owners completed a series of questionnaires including: human personality (NEO-FFI-3), dog personality (MCPQ-R), attachment (DAQ) and supplemental questions regarding health and about the dyad’s relationship (e.g., duration of cohabitation). Overall, dogs demonstrated behavioural manifestations of attachment, as they spent more time in close proximity and in physical contact with owners compared to strangers. Neither dogs nor owners showed elevated CgA levels at the throughout the procedure. Owners experienced a decrease in CORT throughout the procedure, whereas CORT levels in some dogs increased and some dogs decreased. CORT was related to dog behaviour, e.g., dogs with higher CORT scratched the door more frequently and engaged in more contact bouts with owners. Owners and dogs did not ‘match’ on analogous personality factors, but they did complement each other in interesting ways (e.g., owners scoring high on Conscientiousness had dogs that scored high on Training-focus).


Katie Carroll

Date 2015
Pages 141
Publisher Memorial University of Newfoundland
Department Psychology
Degree Master of Science
Language English
University Memorial University of Newfoundland
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animals in culture
  3. Dogs
  4. Friendship
  5. Human-animal bond
  6. Human-animal relationships
  7. Interspecies interactions
  8. Mammals
  9. Pet ownership
  10. Pets and companion animals
  11. Socialization