‘My dog is my baby’ is the most common catch-phrase we hear from pet parents around the world. You love them like your kids, feed them, take care of them and at times sacrifice more than you would for your own kids. Well, do you think your pooch understands all this and considers you as his parent? As per research held at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, the answer is Yes!
Researchers were interested in learning about the behaviour of adult dogs and how they respond to their parents and to know about it and they used a theory called “Secure Base Effect”. According to this theory, children use their parents as a secure base when interacting with their environment. To be precise, children while exploring new situations use their parents as a safety net. This security has shown a huge impact on children’s ability to explore and plan their daily life. So researchers conducted this study in two phases.
Using the ‘Secure Base Effect’ theory, researchers set up a sequence of situations for dogs to determine their behaviour towards their parents
The first scenario was with an absent parent
The second scenario was with a silent but present parent
The third scenario was with an encouraging parent
In each scenario, the dogs were given toys to play which rewarded them with food when successfully navigated. As dogs were busy with their toys the parents were behaving as per the scenarios simultaneously.
After this research, researchers found that dogs were less motivated to figure out how to get the delicious treat from the toy when their parents were absent than when they were present. The most interesting part of this research was that whether the parent was silent or encouraging had little impact on a dog’s motivation. They were in comfort with the fact that their parents were there while they were solving the puzzle.
To analyse whether the comfort was due to parent's presence or just the presence of a human in enhanced motivation of dog, the researchers repeated the study with strangers. The results were completely different from strangers, dogs had no impact on its motivation irrespective of a silent of motivating stranger.
With the successful completion of the first phase of the study, researchers wanted to be more sure about this so they followed the study to the second phase.
In the second phase of the study, dogs were kept in a room with a piece of cloth of their parent and stranger. When the dogs were alone they would paw their parent’s clothes and sit near to the chair the clothes were kept on.
So this ‘Secure Base Effect’ study experimented on dogs was helpful in deciding what dogs consider their hooman to be. They have the same feeling as a child towards their parents and so they are not just an animal but a child to us and for them we are family. If ever you wonder whether your pooch is just like your child or not, think again. For them you are their parents.
Happy Father’s Day to all the pet-parents out there!