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Is Your Pet Your Child? Your Dog May Think So.

Is Your Pet Your Child? Your Dog May Think So.

“My dog is like my child.” Many dog lovers feel that close bond with their pets, but is the relationship like that of parent and child?

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna) studied the relationships between dogs and their owners. They found that the relationships are, indeed, similar to those of parent and child. In the dog’s eyes, the owner is a secure base, just as a caregiver is to a baby.

The researchers analyzed dogs in three conditions: with their owner present and offering encouragement, with their owner present but silent, and with their owner absent. Prompting the dogs to work for a food reward, the dogs were less interested in working for food when their owners were not there than when they were there. Whether the owners encouraged the dogs or remained silent made no difference.

In another experiment, the scientists found that the dogs were much more motivated when their owners were present than when replaced by strangers. The researchers found that the dogs acted in a more confident manner when their owners were around.

This study was the first to show a similarity between the “secure base effect” in children/caregiver relationships and in dog/owner relationships.

The research, led by Lisa Horn from the Vetmeduni’s Messerli Research Institute, was published in PLOS ONE. Future studies to compare dog/owner and child/parent relationships are planned.

“One of the things that really surprised us is, that adult dogs behave towards their caregivers like human children do. It will be really interesting to try to find out how this behavior evolved in the dogs with direct comparisons,” said Ms. Horn in a press release.

The study did not address the relationship through the dog owner’s eyes, but at least in one respect it seems that dog lovers have had it right all along. Whether or not you view your dog as your child, your dog may view you as their security, much as a human infant views a parent.

Related Reading
10 Things You didn’t Know About Dogs
Does Your Dog Watch TV?
Amazing Dogs Working to Save Endangered Species

Main Post Photo [woman kissing dog]: Photographer: Wavebreakmedia Ltd | Collection: Wavebreak Media | Thinkstock

Photo [woman hugging dog]: Photographer: | Chris Amaral | Collection: Digital Vision | Thinkstock


Read more: Behavior & Communication, Children, Dogs, Family, Home, Life, Pets, Relationships

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Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. She is a freelance writer and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

185 comments

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4:07AM PDT on Aug 17, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

8:15AM PST on Dec 4, 2013

My dogs are not my kids but I love them to bits and try to look after them the best I can. In my opinion a bond with your kids is very special and cannot be compared with any other.

5:33PM PST on Nov 27, 2013

cool study! thanks for sharing!!

5:31PM PST on Nov 27, 2013

cool study! thanks for sharing!!

2:40PM PST on Nov 27, 2013

My dogs and cats are my kids and behave better than most real kids nowadays! People may judge me for not wanting human kids but my furkids are more than enough for me and my hubbie! And they love you unconditionally, don't have bad manners, they listen, don't drink, smoke or do drugs! Love you my babies!

11:53AM PST on Nov 27, 2013

The pet is not a pet. It is a child and we are the parents. Like children, pets are more inclined to do well when we are there and when we aren't, they don't have the same impetus. Love them, hug them, let them know how important they are and they will do the same with their unconditional love. Even if you don't give them steak for dinner.

6:57AM PST on Nov 27, 2013

I have always felt that my dogs and cats are just little kids in furry suits...

12:15PM PST on Nov 26, 2013

Both my dogs (one is waiting for me at Rainbow Bridge) are my children. I love them and look out for their well being every bit as much as I ever have the many children my wife and I have fostered over the years.

7:39AM PST on Nov 25, 2013

My cats thinks that *I* am his child. He licks me awake every morning and then tries to groom me in the afternoons. Also I think he disapproves of my shampoo because he is always knocking it over in the bathtub. LOL

2:42AM PST on Nov 25, 2013

We're their world; treasure them

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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