The Relationship Between Functional Breed Selection and Attachment Pattern in Family Dogs (Canis familiaris)

Scientific Journal Articles

Adult dogs show similar behaviour pattern towards their owners as human infants towards their caregivers among experimental conditions, where the attachment behaviour is activated because of the moderately stressful situation. Meanwhile the capacity to form attachment towards the owner is considered as part of the domestication history of dogs, in more recent times dogs were selected for often very different work-related behavioural phenotypes. For instance, ‘cooperative’ dog breeds, like shepherd dogs, typically work in visual contact with the handler, while the ‘independent’ breeds, such as the hounds or sled dogs, work independently. We investigated whether cooperative and non-cooperative working dogs would also show different patterns in their attachment behaviour. We tested independent (N = 29) and cooperative (N = 28) dogs from various working breeds in the Strange Situation Test. To describe the subjects’ behaviour, we used a scoring system with three main factors (Attachment, Acceptance, Anxiety). We did not find any significant between-group difference in the attachment pattern of the two main working dog types (Attachment: P = 0.499; Anxiety P = 0.200; Acceptance P = 0.339). Within-breed differences may be stronger than between-breed differences in this situation, while it is also possible that owners of different breeds handle their dogs differently. Our results support the theory that attachment to the owner is a fundamentally similar feature in socialized dogs, and subsequent functional breed selection may rather influence the more specific behavioural phenotypes of dogs.

Lenkei, R., Carreiro, C., Gácsi, M., and Pongrácz, P. (2021). The relationship between functional breed selection and attachment pattern in family dogs (Canis familiaris). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 235, 105231.


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Topic(s): Breeder Resource, Genetics, How Genetic Traits Are Inherited