Measuring the Human-Canine Animal Bond

Project Lead: Dr Lauren Samet


Project background and summary

While the importance of using appropriate tools to measure human-animal interactions (HAI) and human animal bonds (HAB) is widely recognised across the literature, there is a lack of information on which and when existing tools should be applied. This issue is furtherer compounded by a lack of reliability and validity measures. Until a more rigorous, empirical examination of companion animal HAB methodologies has been completed, existing measurements, and thus any conclusions drawn from their use, must be utilised with caution.

This project aimed to address this issue by completing a systematic literature review of existing HAI tools created since the date of the last subject review (2008). Examination of methodologies was conducted, and weaknesses were identified through discussion with a panel consisting of both Dogs Trust researchers and experts from external fields (e.g., academia, working dog groups, veterinary, epidemiology).

Results from both the systematic literature review and the panel discussion identified the need for further representation of the dog’s perspective in HAI/HAB tools designed to address such relationships. This led to the next stage of the project, which was to investigate canine investment in the HCAB via qualitative research.

Semi-structured interviews were carried out with a variety of people representing the human half of their HCAB in order to thematically analyse which factors create a successful HAB including from the dog’s perspective. It is hoped this research can help inform the design of future HAB tools with greater representation of the animal’s investment and wellbeing within a relationship.


The problem, and its context within Dogs Trust.


Many current HAI tools have reportedly been designed for one time use and provide inadequate attention to underlying psychometric properties, such as lack of reliability and validity testing. Consequently, there remains some confusion regarding consistent and reliable use. Until a more rigorous examination of HAB tools has been completed existing measurements must be utilised with caution.


Accurate measurement of the HCAB is important to Dogs Trust due to its significant roles in generating and maintaining the pet-owner relationship and preventing bond breakdown, which can lead to relinquishment or abandonment. Knowledge of the HCAB and its development is important to our Post-Adoption Support work and other research projects such as Generation Pup.

Research outcomes
  • To evaluate existing HAB tools to allow for appropriate selection of such tools in future research.
  • Enabling the identification of impacts on the HAB and the human and dog behaviours surrounding said impacts, to help provide intervention strategies for preventing bond breakdown and improving rehoming matches. 



A paper under review with Society & Animals describing the findings from the systematic literature review of HAI and HAB tools.

An abstract describing findings from semi-structured interviews with dog guardians. This has been accepted for the 30th International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) virtual conference in June 2021.

Redressing the balance: Developing new questions to better represent dog investment in the human-canine animal bond PDF 84 KB

An abstract describing findings from the systematic literature review of HAI and HAB tools. This was presented at the 29th International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) virtual conference in September 2020.

Status of Instrument Development in the Field of Human-Animal Interactions PDF 74 KB