Investigating the bond between research dogs and a familiar person and validation of the Ainsworth's Strange Situation Procedure (ASSP)

In the dog-human relationship humans are the ones who provide the dog with safety and comfort. Ainsworth's Strange Situation Procedure (ASSP), which was originally developed in humans to study the relationship between mothers and infants, has been modified to investigate the emotional bond research dogs have to a familiar person. Twelve research dogs were tested to investigate whether the dogs performed any behaviours indicating a secure-base effect, such as more exploration and play in the presence of a familiar person and proximity-seeking behaviours when this person is or has been absent. In the ASSP the dog enters a room with a familiar person, is introduced to a stranger, is left alone for a short period of time and experiences moments of separation and reunion. A second variation of the ASSP was added where the familiar person was replaced by another, to the dog, unfamiliar person. This application of a second treatment has not previously been used and was done to evaluate the test itself. All dogs were tested twice, once in every treatment which both composed of six 3-minute episodes. The results reveal that research dogs show signs of attachment to a familiar person which is recognizable in for instance exploration, play and proximity seeking behavior in different phases of ASSP. The dogs explored and played more when in the company of the familiar person compared to when with a stranger and showed signs of proximity-seeking behaviours when the familiar person was or had been absent. The way that the dogs behaved, support the attachment theory of a secure-base effect and our results, therefore, strongly suggest that ASSP is an appropriate test to use in respect of dogs attachment to humans.


Jennichen Svensson

Lärosäte och institution

SLU/Dept. of Animal Environment and Health


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