According to a study by Christy L. Hoffman, PhD, assistant professor of animal behavior, ecology and conservation at Canisius College, it looked at human-animal attachment among 60 dog-owning families, including parents and children.
Participants completed questionnaires that asked about their attachment to their pet dogs, their levels of responsibility for the animals, such as feeding and walking them, and their general attitudes toward pets.
Participants were also asked to rate their dogs on behavioral characteristics, including excitability, trainability, stranger fear and aggression, separation problems and attention-seeking behavior.
The study revealed several findings.
First, those individuals who had more positive feelings about pets, in general, and who took more responsibility for the care of their dogs, compared to others in their families, had higher attachments to their dogs. Perhaps this is not so surprising. But there's more.
Hoffman also found that owners, regardless of gender, age or race, had a greater attachment to their dogs when the animals scored high on trainability and separation-related problems. In other words, if the dog is well-behaved and likes to socialize with humans, then the bond between the dog and its owner is greater.
Lastly, the study revealed that the more dogs demonstrate attention-seeking behavior with their adult owners, the more attached these owners are likely to be with their dogs. Interestingly, however, this made no difference to the children in the study.