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Investigating Attachment Behavior in Shelter Dogs

By Anamarie Johnson

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The strength and nature of the social connection between humans and dogs is a product of a long history of domestication. This study, conducted at a municipal shelter in Northern California using a modified Strange Situation Test, investigated the hypothesis that human-dog interactions will improve the quality and quantity of physical contact between dogs and people across an episodic set of trials. A dog either engaged with a person with whom it previously interacted and a stranger (handled condition) or interacted with two strangers (unhandled condition). Because dogs living at a shelter in the United States typically do not have a reliable source of social connection to humans, it was predicted that 1) dogs would have similar rates of physical contact with any individual regardless of condition, 2) handled dogs would exhibit more physical contact during Episode 1 of the original condition compared to the counterbalanced condition and 3) all dogs would maintain proximity to individuals regardless of condition. There were no statistically significant patterns of physical contacts across the episodes or in Episode 1, but there was a tendency towards more consistent use of room location as opposed to individual location. There was large variance in the data set, and thus a study with more subjects and also one that investigates not only the occurrence but also the duration of behaviors, as well as taking into account the background of the dogs, would further our understanding of shelter dog behavior, and their ability to form attachments to caregivers and future adopters.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2016
Pages 73
Publisher City University of New York
Location of Publication New York City, New York
Department Arts and Science
Degree Psychology
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal housing
  3. Animal roles
  4. Animal shelters
  5. Animals in culture
  6. Animal welfare
  7. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  8. Dogs
  9. Human-animal interactions
  10. Mammals
  11. Pet ownership
  12. Pets and companion animals
  13. Service animals
  14. tests