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Open AccessArticle

Evaluating Cognitive and Behavioral Outcomes in Conjunction with the Secure Base Effect for Dogs in Shelter and Foster Environments

Animal & Rangeland Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
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Animals 2019, 9(11), 932; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110932
Received: 1 October 2019 / Revised: 26 October 2019 / Accepted: 5 November 2019 / Published: 7 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Welfare of Cats and Dogs)
Attachment relationships formed early in life have important implications for long-term social and behavioral outcomes for humans. Although previous research has established that dogs and humans form attachment relationships that can be categorized into attachment styles, the implications of these relationships have not been well-studied. This is a particularly important area of study for dogs living in foster homes and animal shelters, as it is currently unknown if and how attachment relationships formed in these environments correspond with behavioral and cognitive outcomes. In this study, we examined attachment styles in relation to cognitive measures and surveys of canine behavior and personality completed by caretakers of dogs in foster and shelter environments. Foster dogs with secure attachments displayed higher levels of persistence and performance on cognitive tasks compared to foster dogs with insecure attachments. On a survey given to foster and shelter volunteers, we found that securely attached dogs were rated as less neurotic than insecurely attached dogs for both foster and shelter groups. These results indicate that attachment relationships are associated with other important behavioral and cognitive traits of foster and shelter dogs, suggesting that the potential for causal associations should be explored further.
Although it is widely accepted that dogs and humans form attachment relationships, characterizing attachment styles in dogs has only recently received attention in the literature. Previous research has shown that pet dogs display patterns of behavior in an attachment test that can be classified into secure and insecure attachment styles, much like human children and their caretakers. However, we currently know relatively little about the role of attachment styles in relation to canine well-being. This question may be of particular interest for the 3.9 million dogs that enter animal shelters in the United States alone each year, as this transition marks the dissolution of prior bonds and the establishment of new attachment relationships. Herein, results are presented from analyses of volunteer-reported canine personality and behavior measures, as well as performance on two cognitive tasks as they relate to attachment styles developed within shelter and foster environments. Results from the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) indicated that foster dogs were scored as having significantly higher levels of attachment and attention-seeking behaviors when compared with shelter dogs. In both environments, dogs categorized as securely attached to a shelter or foster volunteer had lower neuroticism scores. Secure attachment in foster homes was also associated with improved persistence and performance on a point following task. These results provide support for the idea that attachment styles formed with temporary caregivers is associated with other behavioral and personality measures, and therefore may have implications for behavior and welfare in dogs living in foster homes and animal shelters. View Full-Text
Keywords: attachment behavior; attachment style; canine cognition; shelter dog behavior; foster dog behavior attachment behavior; attachment style; canine cognition; shelter dog behavior; foster dog behavior
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MDPI and ACS Style

Thielke, L.E.; Udell, M.A.R. Evaluating Cognitive and Behavioral Outcomes in Conjunction with the Secure Base Effect for Dogs in Shelter and Foster Environments. Animals 2019, 9, 932. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110932

AMA Style

Thielke LE, Udell MAR. Evaluating Cognitive and Behavioral Outcomes in Conjunction with the Secure Base Effect for Dogs in Shelter and Foster Environments. Animals. 2019; 9(11):932. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110932

Chicago/Turabian Style

Thielke, Lauren E.; Udell, Monique A.R. 2019. "Evaluating Cognitive and Behavioral Outcomes in Conjunction with the Secure Base Effect for Dogs in Shelter and Foster Environments" Animals 9, no. 11: 932. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110932

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Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

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