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.
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