THE WHIS­PERER

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - PETS - Anne Box­hall

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.

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