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Characteristics and Adoption Success of Shelter Dogs Assessed as Resource Guarders
Open AccessArticle

Characterizing Human–Dog Attachment Relationships in Foster and Shelter Environments as a Potential Mechanism for Achieving Mutual Wellbeing and Success

Department of Animal & Rangeland Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
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Animals 2020, 10(1), 67; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010067
Received: 25 November 2019 / Revised: 18 December 2019 / Accepted: 26 December 2019 / Published: 30 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
The majority of research on attachment behavior in dogs has focused on the bonds between pet dogs and their owners. In this study, we examined attachment relationships between dogs living in animal shelters and foster homes and their temporary caregivers-shelter volunteers or foster volunteers, respectively. We also examined these results in relation to previously published data from pet dogs in order to contextualize our findings. Our findings indicate that the percentage of securely attached shelter dogs was significantly lower than that previously observed in scientific studies of the pet dog population. No differences were found between proportions of securely attached foster dogs and prior research with pets. We did not find significant differences between foster and shelter dogs in terms of attachment style proportions. We also found evidence of disinhibited attachment, which is associated with a lack of appropriate social responses with unfamiliar and familiar individuals in foster and shelter dogs. This is the first study to apply attachment theory to foster and shelter settings.
This study aimed to characterize attachment relationships between humans and dogs living in animal shelters or foster homes, and to contextualize these relationships in the broader canine attachment literature. In this study, 21 pairs of foster dogs and foster volunteers and 31 pairs of shelter dogs and shelter volunteers participated. Each volunteer–dog dyad participated in a secure base test and a paired attachment test. All volunteers completed the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS), a survey designed to measure strength of attachment bonds as reported by humans. Although no significant differences were present in terms of proportions of insecure and secure attachments between foster and shelter populations, proportions in the shelter population were significantly lower (p < 0.05) than the proportions of attachment styles that would be expected in a population of pet dogs based on the published literature on pet dog attachment styles. Additionally, findings are presented in relation to data from a paired attachment test that demonstrate foster and shelter dogs spend more time in proximity to humans when the human is actively attending to the dog and encouraging interaction, as would be expected based on previous studies. We also present findings related to the presence of disinhibited attachment (previously reported in children who spent a significant portion of time living in institutionalized settings) which is characterized by a lack of preferential proximity seeking with a familiar caregiver and excessive friendliness towards strangers in foster and shelter dogs. View Full-Text
Keywords: attachment behavior; shelter dog; foster dog; disinhibited attachment; attachment style attachment behavior; shelter dog; foster dog; disinhibited attachment; attachment style
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Thielke, L.E.; Udell, M.A. Characterizing Human–Dog Attachment Relationships in Foster and Shelter Environments as a Potential Mechanism for Achieving Mutual Wellbeing and Success. Animals 2020, 10, 67.

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