Attachment to humans: A comparative study on hand-reared wolves and differently socialized dog puppies

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Using the Strange Situation Test originally developed for testing the mother-infant relationship in humans, we compared the attachment behaviour of extensively socialized (hand-reared) dog, Canis familiaris, and wolf, Canis lupus, puppies towards their human caregiver with that of pet dog puppies of the same age. The experiment was designed to study whether (1) dog puppies as young as 16 weeks show attachment to a human caregiver, (2) extensive socialization by human caregivers affects attachment behaviour of dog puppies and (3) evolutionary changes (in the form of species-specific differences between wolf and dog pups) affect the emergence of dog-human attachment. We found a characteristic selective responsiveness to the owner in young dogs, similar to that observed in adults. This finding supports the view that puppies show patterns of attachment towards their owners. Extensive socialization had only a minor effect on the attachment behaviour in dog puppies, as the behaviour of pet dogs and hand-reared dogs was basically similar. However, we found a significant species-specific difference between wolves and dogs: both extensively socialized and pet dog puppies were more responsive to the owner than to an unfamiliar human participant, whereas extensively socialized wolves were not. Behavioural differences could be best explained by assuming that selective processes took place in the course of domestication (genetic changes) that are related to the attachment system of the dog.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1367-1375
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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