‘Man’s best friend’ – but is the feeling mutual?
Dogs Trust has released new research which shows we still have a way to go in exploring whether dogs invest in the human/dog bond in the same way their owners do.
When the UK’s largest canine charity carried out a series of interviews with different types of dog owner to explore this bond, it found that current methods used to measure it focus on the human side and all too often fail to capture the dog’s perspective.
Understanding the bond between owners and their dogs, and the reasons why it sometimes breaks down, is an important aspect of the charity’s work in trying to reduce the number of people who give up their dogs because they are no longer to cope, or no longer want them.
Through a series of interviews conducted with different kinds of dog guardian, including owners of a single dog, multiple dogs, and assistance dogs, the charity’s research team discovered several seemingly common themes in establishing a bond between dog and owner – particularly understanding the dog’s perspective.
These included adaptation; respecting boundaries (set by both human and dog); understanding (and being empathetic to) a dog’s preferences, likes and dislikes in order to support them emotionally and increase the “quality time” spent together. A full summary can be read here: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/12/7/805
Some of the best ways owners can establish a special bond with their dog include:
- Establishing trust and carrying out activities that generate a positive association can promote an increased closeness and a unique bond, which may well be closer than the dog’s bonds with other members of the household
- Positive reinforcement during dog training and other aspects of management are great ways to establish a bond
- Games and dog friendly activities, to enjoy fun time together
- Sticking up for your dog - supporting your dog appropriately when they find situations challenging
Dogs Trust Head of Research, Dr Melissa Upjohn, and Dr Lauren Samet who lead the research said:
“It’s easy to assume that dogs feel the same way as we do about our special bond - but we’ll never really know unless we start asking the right questions and start to really look at it from the dog’s perspective.
“The more we understand the dog’s point of view, the better equipped we are to support both dogs and owners in building and maintaining healthy bonds in their lives together.”
To find out more about using positive reinforcement-based training methods visit Dogs Trust’s Dog School pages. Dog School is Dogs Trust’s affordable in-person and virtual training course that offers small group classes, reward-based training to encourage positive behaviour and help you to understand your dog and prevent future problems.