The Dog-Owner Bond in Multi-Person Households:

Effects of Caregiving Styles on Dog Attachment

  • Elena Volk MacEwan University


Pet dogs seem to form attachment bonds to their owners that resemble those that infants develop to their parents. Within the infant-parent literature, parental sensitivity, warmth, and attachment style are the best predictors of an infant’s attachment. However, it is currently unclear whether these same factors are also the most influential for determining a dog’s attachment towards their owner. Additionally, in comparison to infants with a secure attachment style, infants with insecure attachment (IA) styles are linked to later problem behaviours, such as aggression or anxiety. Therefore, further investigation into the development of pet dogs’ attachment styles and their resulting problem behaviours is warranted. To test this, the present study used a modified Ainsworth Strange Situation Procedure to asses dogs’ attachment styles towards two of their owners as well as to evaluate each owner’s sensitivity and warmth. Self-report measures were used to assess each owner’s attachment style and the severity of their dog’s problem behaviours. We found that, similar to the infant-parent attachment literature: (1) owners’ level of warmth and sensitivity were the best predictors of their dogs’ attachment style and (2) avoidant IA dogs showed a significant trend towards having higher aggression scores than dogs with any other attachment style.


Faculty Mentor: Eric Legge

Department: Psychology (Honours)