The relationship between human-dog attachment and emotion perception (#667)
Attachment behaviours are present in several animal species and are related to many survival strategies. Dogs are social mammals and one of the most interesting aspects of their life is that it happens in mixed species groups. Domestic dogs are especially prepared to interact with people, and the bond with humans is so strong that fulfills the ethological definition criteria of attachment. Furthermore, reading the emotion of others is one of the main abilities for social regulation, therefore a communication channel of emotional understanding between dogs and humans may be what enables the maintenance of functional long-term interspecific relationships. In order to investigate whether the attachment level between owner and dog influences the way owners think: 1) they read dog’s emotions (OwnersRead) and 2) dogs are capable of reading their emotional expressions (DogsRead). We interviewed 79 participants using two questionnaires: Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale and a questionnaire of score attribution regarding the six basic emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust). We used spearman correlations (rs) to analyse the resultant scores. Data showed that OwnersRead is related to DogsRead (rs=0,39; p=0,0004). We also found OwnersRead and attachment were not correlated (scores for happiness, sadness and fear were very high), however there was a significant correlation between attachment and DogsRead for happiness (rs=0,32; p=0,004), sadness (rs=0,31; p=0,005), anger (rs=0,26; p=0,019), surprise (rs=0,23; p=0,039) and for emotions altogether (rs=0,27; p=0,015). The fact that people’s ascription of cognitive abilities to their dogs is related to their attachment level, may be linked to anthropomorphic tendencies and to a need of feeling that dogs understand human. Questionnaires do not provide the real measures of emotion perception, however they allow an assessment of people’s beliefs and are a very useful tool for the study of dog-human relationship.