YOU love your dog – but does your dog love you back? They lick us, want to hang out with us, jump up with wagging tails to greet us, romp, play and sleep with us, and watch over us when we’re sick. It certainly looks as if they love us. A new study has been examining the unique relationship between people and their pets, which spans thousands of years.
No other animal on earth shares as close a bond with people as dogs, but are their behaviours toward us largely instinctive, part of their social nature rather than signs of love?
The Swedish study investigated whether there was a link between how an owner feels about their dog and how the dog feels about the owner.
Does the strength of the owner’s love for their dog have a bearing on the strength of the dog’s bond to the owner?
The researchers used a questionnaire called the Monash Dog Owner Relationship Scale, which was developed in Australia.
They studied interactions between humans and canines and how the dogs behaved when only their owner was around, compared with when the owner and a stranger were present.
They also looked at how the dog greeted the owner when he or she came back into the room after a short separation.
The fi ndings suggest owners who frequently interact with their pooch have dogs that show more proximity- seeking behaviour and less independent play behaviour.
This might be a consequence of being reinforced for close interaction by the owner.
Other than this, there was no hard evidence to support the view that because a person has a strong emotional bond to their dog, their dog is similarly attached to them.
But there is some good news: the dogs were more welcoming to the owner than the stranger and spent more time close to their owner.
The researchers said this showed the owner was “a unique person to the dog, from whom it seeks comfort, security and reassurance’’.
And we love them for it.