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Title: Dog owner interaction style : the transmission of working models in human/non-human caregiving relationships
Author: Taggart, Jill Monica
ISNI:       0000 0004 2696 7017
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2011
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A model of parental sensitivity in caregiving informs later romantic relationships and is transmitted in caregiving behaviours to children. Differences in parental caregiving contribute to individual differences in infant attachment style. The owner/dog bond mirrors this relationship as dog careseeking activates owner caregiving. The aim of this thesis was to investigate the role of individual differences in owner caregiving on dog attachment style. The first study defined dog attachment style in the Strange Situation Test (Ainsworth & Wittig, 1973) in a sample of 52 self-selected owner/dog dyads. Dogs seek proximity, show evidence of distress when separated and use owners as safe havens for exploration. Individual differences in attachment security and insecurity were found. Secure dogs achieve attachment system deactivation through owner contact. Insecure dogs’ attachment systems remains activated with: excessive focus on the owner but otherwise behaviourally passive; excessive owner avoidance focussing on evading the owner; or anxiety, consisting of high distress which could not be pacified by owner. The second and third studies tested the effects of owner behaviour on individual differences in dog attachment style and exploratory system activation in a task-solving experiment. Behaviours assessed were talk and touch durations in the Strange Situation and owner “frightening” behaviours (threatening; owner showing fear; dissociation; disorganised; highly submissive; and sexualised behaviours). Owner behaviours significantly related to dog attachment style: owners of Avoidant dogs petted them less, talked to them more and used frightening behaviours, whereas, owners of Secure dogs used moderation in talk and touch and few frightening behaviours. Secure dogs task-solved longer and their owners were significantly less invasive and controlling (grabbing paws, restraining dogs) than owners of Avoidant dogs. Owner sensitivity is therefore related to dog attachment security which enables exploratory system activation. Self-reports of owner attachment style in the fourth study found a trend towards a dismissive style in adult relationships and dog avoidance. Parent/child studies have linked parental frightening behaviours to subsequent infant disorganisation (due to the secure base or safe haven also being the source of fear), and to parental unresolved loss, trauma or abuse. Using interview protocols, studies five and six found relationships between owners Unresolved in loss, a Dismissive owner working model, invasive owner task solving behaviour, frightening owner behaviours and Avoidant dog attachment, indicating of a web of interaction between working models and behaviour. The results indicate the potential effects of owner behaviour on the human/dog bond. The results could be used in assessing owner dog relationships that may indicate risk of animal/human abuse; assist dog shelters in the successful re-homing of insecure dogs by identifying secure households; and to enable greater owner understanding of dog behaviour and appropriate responding leading to more satisfying human/dog bonds, and thus fewer relinquishments to shelters.
Supervisor: Mcbride, Elizabeth ; Redhead, Edward Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QL Zoology ; BF Psychology