Tag Archives: dog attachment to humans

Puppies in Paris*

*Title credit goes to Rachel Cliburn for her initial “Pooches of Paris” idea

Dear fellow readers,

I cannot believe this is my last week in Paris. The time has flown by. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned, the amazing people that I’ve met, and what I’ve been able to explore in Paris as well. As I spent some time the past few days reflecting on my time abroad these past five weeks, I couldn’t help but think about how my experience and life at home has shaped my experience here, especially since I got to spend a week of my trip with my mom.

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My mom and I at Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, located at the 18th arrondissement in Paris

But while I wandered the streets of Paris, whether it be near the Accent center where we have class, on the Metro, or near Cit├ę Universitaire where we live, I couldn’t help myself noticing all the different animals that freely roam about Paris, especially dogs. Most people who know me and know me well know how attached I am to different animals; however, none compare to how much I love dogs. I’ve seen them here and there around Paris: from a pleasantly plump pug to a shaggy, content mutt, I’ve taken note and even snapped a few pictures!

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A black pug seen across the street from Accent (although not a great picture)

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Spotted: An adorable mutt seen on the Metro (pun intended). My mom called this dog my brother’s “doggleganger”, since they both have two different colored eyes. ­čÖé

I had the pleasure of growing up with two Newfoundland dogs. If you aren’t familiar with the breed, Newfoundlands are typically very big, black dogs that originate from the coast of Canada. My first dog, Rufus, was a darling: quite a sweetheart and lived with me until I was about 8 years old. After he died of a brain tumor, my family got another dog named Angus. Same breed, but quite a different animal entirely. Angus was rambunctious and always quite a joker: he used to eat our socks (which we’d later find mixed in with his poop in the backyard a day or so later)!

But we all loved Angus. Up until he passed away in 2013, he was one of the most important parts of my life.

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Angus and me reunited during fall break of my first year of college (2012)

After seeing various puppies around Paris, I thought back to Angus and just how important he was to me. These thoughts made me wonder: do our canine counterparts feel similarly attached to us as we do to them?

After some researching, I stumbled upon a study that looked into attachment behavior in dogs. This study applied Ainsworth (1969)’s original Strange Situation Procedure┬áto attachment behavior in dogs! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Procedure, this paradigm consists of separations and reunions between parent and child and is used to assess degrees of attachment. The paradigm can be broken up into three stages:

1. Child enters a room with their parent/guardian (usually the child’s mother) filled with toys and a stranger whom the child has never met before. The child is allowed to explore/play with the toys in the presence of both the stranger and┬áhis or her parent.

2. The mother leaves the room, leaving the child alone with the stranger (and the toys).

3. Third, the mother re-enters the room and re-joins the child with the stranger.

The child’s behavior is observed during each of these stages to assess the level of attachment the child has towards his or her parent. If the child has a “secure” attachment to their parent, they will likely be upset when the mother leaves, but quickly soothed upon her return. An “insecure avoidant” child will not be phased by the mother’s initial presence, absence, or return, and will likely ignore the parent throughout all stages. An “insecure anxious” child will be so distraught by the parent leaving the room that they are often inconsolable, even upon the parent’s return. Lastly, a “disorganized” child exhibits strange behavior that does not fit into any of the above categories.

To better understand this procedure, here’s a video example:

So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that they did a similar study with dogs! In Top├íl et al. (1998), they modeled this strange situation procedure with a series of separations and reunions in 51 dog-owner pairs. And do you know what they found? Adult dogs show patterns of attachment toward their owners! The observed dog behaviors are also similar to the mother-infant interactions recorded during Ainsworth’s original study. Additionally, another study by Zilcha-Mano, Mikulincer, and Shaver (2011) found that individual differences in human attachment to pets results in pet-related cognitions, emotions, and behavior. This study also illustrated┬áthese differences lead to different emotional reactions to the death of the pet. No wonder my attachment to Angus resulted in so much grief when he passed!

After reading Top├íl et al.‘s research findings, I’d be curious to know at what point during the dog’s life this attachment emerges. In humans, attachment develops fairly early. This study was only done in adult dogs, and the researchers also admitted to having considerable variability in dog behavior. Additionally, I wonder if abused dogs would show “insecure avoidant” behavior, as abused children often do.

For the moment though, it does appear as if my attachment to Angus probably wasn’t only one-sided. I wonder if he misses me as much as I miss him!

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Me and Angus in 2005

Here’s hoping that all the Parisian puppies out there have good and kind owners, and that they can develop an emotional attachment as special as mine and Angus’s was.

Au revoir pour le moment lecteurs!

Meg

References:

Ainsworth, M. D. S.,┬áWittig, B. A. (1969). Attachment and exploratory behavior of one-year-olds in a strange situation. Determinants of Infant Behavior, 4, 113ÔÇô136.

Top├íl J, Mikl├│si ├ü, Cs├ínyi V, D├│ka A (1998). Attachment Behavior in Dogs (Canis familiaris): A New Application of Ainsworth’s (1996) Strange Situation Test.┬áJournal of Comparative Psychology. 112: 219-229.

Zilcha-Mano S, Mikulincer M, Shaver PR (2011). An attachment perspective on human-pet relationships: Conceptualization and assessment of pet attachment orientations. Journal of Research in Personality. 45 (4): 345-357.