Do Dog Behavioral Characteristics Predict the Quality of the Relationship between Dogs and Their Owners?

Christy L. Hoffman & Pan Chen1, James A. Serpell2 & Kristen C. Jacobson3

1The University of Chicago
2University of Pennsylvania
3The University of Chicago

This paper explores whether dog behavioral characteristics predict the quality of the relationship between dogs and their owners (i.e., owner attachment to dog), and whether relations between dog behavior and owner attachment are moderated by demographic characteristics. In this study, N = 92 children and N = 60 adults from 60 dog-owning families completed questionnaires about their attachment to their pet dog, their level of responsibility for that dog, and their general attitudes toward pets. They also rated their dogs on observable behavioral characteristics. Individuals who held positive attitudes about pets and who provided much of their dog's care reported stronger attachments to their dogs. The strength of owners' attachments to their dogs was associated with dog trainability and separation problems. Relationships between owner attachment and both dog excitability and attention-seeking behavior were further moderated by demographic characteristics: for Caucasians but not for non-Caucasians, dog excitability was negatively associated with owner attachment to dog; and for adults, dog attention-seeking behavior was positively associated with owner attachment, but children tended to be highly attached to their dogs, regardless of their dogs' attention-seeking behaviors. This study demonstrates that certain dog behavioral traits are indeed associated with the strength of owners' attachments to their dogs.

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Keywords: attachment, attitudes, behavior, C-BARQ, dog
Posted in 2013, Volume 1, No. 1