Happy Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week!
… And in the dramatic year that has been 2020, we are celebrating human-animal relationships more than ever!
With the COVID-19 pandemic and all the changes it has created many of us have developed even more appreciation for the relationships we have with our pets.
Whilst the Dogs Trust Research Team’s Human-Animal Bond project (to develop a question-based tool to assess the bonds owners have with their dogs) had to be paused this year due to Covid-19, other factors surrounding the human-dog relationship proved important to Dogs Trust’s work and research findings. Read on below to see what we have been up too!
Dogs Trust’s Covid-19 Survey highlighted how our lives in lockdown have affected owner-dog relationships. Many owners have been enjoying spending more time with their dog(s) at home, citing them as a comfort in uncertain times and a source of entertainment. However, the increased time at home and changes in routine come with concerns that dogs are developing new behavioural problems, especially in relation to separation anxiety. You can read the full report online.
Generation Pup, our ground-breaking study of dogs throughout their lifetime, continues to document the long-term relationships of thousands of dogs and owners. The Generation Pup team’s first peer-reviewed publication on sleep behaviours in dogs up to 12 months old provided insight into the value of human-animal relationships from a dog’s point of view; of those dogs that had access to people overnight, more than 86% chose to sleep near their humans. Check out the Sleep Duration and Behaviours paper.
And we wouldn’t have these fascinating results if it wasn’t for our amazing Generation Pup owners! We spoke to Generation Pup owner Sue about her special relationship with her pup, Archie:
“I was medically retired last year due to the onset of a debilitating chronic illness. The illness changed every aspect of my life and I quickly realised that I needed companionship and a new focus.
I knew I needed a dog, and a Miniature Schnauzer was the obvious choice as I loved the breed and had researched breeds thoroughly … "Archie " became my best buddy in October 2019. He is now 13 months old and has completely transformed my life, bringing joy into every day. I love taking him to different places that I know he'll enjoy, teaching him to do skills and chatting to other dog owners. He's a star!”
Best of all, we are still looking for more pups and owners to join Generation Pup! If you live in the UK or Republic of Ireland and own a puppy under 16 weeks of age, you can sign up at generationpup.ac.uk.
The Dogs Trust research team also virtually presented findings related to human-animal relationships at the 29th International Society for Anthrozoology annual conference. We presented nine presentations in total, including understanding unplanned dog acquisition, why owners decline behavioural advice for canine problem behaviours and neutering decisions of owners of 12-month-old dogs. It is findings like these which help Dogs Trust understand and support dog owners.
As you can see, human-animal relationships are so important to the work we do at Dogs Trust. As a dog welfare charity, we recognise that understanding human-dog relationships is key to understanding the reasons we choose to bring a dog into our life, keep a dog in our life, and feel heartbroken when we are faced with giving up a dog or when they pass away. Our knowledge of this will help us continue to reduce relinquishment, improve rehoming success, and keep encouraging owners to provide the best possible care for their dogs.
Sometimes, for any number of reasons, human-animal relationships don’t work out. We want to change the tale and be there for dogs and their owners when they need us most, but we need your help to make that happen. Visit the Dogs Trust Change the Tale page to find out more.
If you’d like to find out more about our work, visit the Dogs Trust research projects page or follow us on Twitter @DTScholars.