‘My dog is my baby’ is the most common catch phrase we hear from dog parents around the world. You love them like your kids, feed them, take care of them and at times sacrifice more than you would for your own kids. Well, do you think your dog understands all this and considers you as his parent? To some extent, the answer is yes, as per a research held at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria.
Researchers were interested in learning about the behaviour of adult dogs and how they respond to their owners and to know about it and they used a theory called “Secure Base Effect”. As per this theory, children use their parents as a secure base when interacting with their environments. To be precise, children while exploring new situations use their parents as a safety net. This security has shown a huge impact on children’s ability to explore and plan their daily life. So researchers conducted this study in two phase
Using ‘Secure Base Effect’ theory, researchers set up a sequence of situations for dogs to determine their behaviour towards their owners.
- First scenario with an absent owner
- Second scenario with a silent but present owner
- Third scenario with an encouraging owner
In each scenario, dogs were given toys to play which rewarded them with food when successfully navigated. As dogs were busy with their toys the owners were behaving as per the scenarios simultaneously.
After this research, researchers found that dogs were less motivated to figure out how to get the delicious treat from the toy when their owners were absent than when they were present. The most interesting part of this research was that whether the owner was silent or encouraging had little impact on dog’s motivation. They were in comfort with the fact that their owners were there while they were solving the puzzle.
To analyse whether the comfort was due to owner’s presence or just the presence of a human in enhanced motivation of dog, the researchers repeated the study with strangers. The results were completely different with strangers, dogs had no impact on its motivation irrespective of a silent of motivating stranger.
With the successful completion of the first phase of the study, researchers wanted to be more sure about this so they followed the study in the second phase.
In the second phase of the study, dogs were kept in a room with a piece of cloth of their owner and stranger. When the dogs were alone they would paw their owner’s clothes and sit near to the chair the cloth was kept on.
So this ‘Secure Base Effect’ study done on dogs was helpful in deciding what dogs consider their owners to be. They have the same feeling as a child towards their parent and so they are not just an animal but a child to us and for them we are family. The next time you think your dog is just like your child, think again…for them you really are their parents. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dog Dads out there. Cheers!
Happy Pet Parenting!