Your Dog is Your Baby, Says Science

Study finds very similar behavior

baby dog humans similarity secure base effect study lisa horn

    Photo: TheOwl84/Flickr

Your baby and your dog may have more in common than the need to move on all fours, says a new study in PLoS One. It seems that both canines and human infants are actually quite similar in how they depend on their overseers, both for food and emotional support.

Lisa Horn of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, conducted an experiment in which a group of dogs could earn treats by interacting with certain dog toys. The experiment was carried out in several different conditions: One scenario in which the dog owner was absent, one while the owner was present but silent, and one while the owner was present and encouraging.

Horn and her cohorts found that whenever the owner was absent, the dogs became disinterested in working for treats, even when a stranger was present to encourage them.

The team called this the “secure base effect,” the presence of food, shelter, and love that allows a being to feel secure enough to explore even in unfamiliar surroundings. It is, according to Horn, the same psychological connection that exists between humans and their own infants.

"The study provides the first evidence for the similarity between the 'secure base effect' found in dog-owner and child-caregiver relationships," says Horn. "It will be really interesting to try to find out how this behavior evolved in the dogs with direct comparisons."

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