Dog-Owner Relationship, Owner Interpretations and Dog Personality Are Connected with the Emotional Reactivity of Dogs

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Somppi , S , Törnqvist , H , Koskela , A , Vehkaoja , A , Tiira , K , Väätäjä , H , Surakka , V , Vainio , O & Kujala , M 2022 , ' Dog-Owner Relationship, Owner Interpretations and Dog Personality Are Connected with the Emotional Reactivity of Dogs ' , Animals , vol. 12 , no. 11 , 1338 .

Title: Dog-Owner Relationship, Owner Interpretations and Dog Personality Are Connected with the Emotional Reactivity of Dogs
Author: Somppi, Sanni; Törnqvist, Heini; Koskela, Aija; Vehkaoja, Antti; Tiira, Katriina; Väätäjä, Heli; Surakka, Veikko; Vainio, Outi; Kujala, Miiamaaria
Contributor organization: Equine and Small Animal Medicine
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Departments of Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme
Helsinki One Health (HOH)
Research Centre for Animal Welfare
Date: 2022-06
Language: eng
Number of pages: 21
Belongs to series: Animals
ISSN: 2076-2615
Abstract: Simple Summary The relationship between owner and the dog affects the dog's attachment behaviors and stress coping. In turn, the quality of the relationship may affect owner's interpretations about their dog's behavior. Here, we assessed dogs' emotional responses from heart rate variability and behavioral changes during five different situations. Dog owners evaluated the emotion (valence and arousal) of their dog after each situation. We found that both negative and positive incidents provoked signs of emotional arousal in dogs. Owners detected the dog's arousal especially during fear- and stress-evoking situations. The dog-owner relationship did not affect owners' interpretation of dogs' emotion. However, the dog-owner relationship was reflected in the dog's emotional reactions. Close emotional bond with the owner appeared to decrease the arousal of the dogs. Dog owners' frequent caregiving of their dog was associated with increased attachment behaviors and heightened arousal of dogs. Owners rated the disadvantages of the dog relationship higher for the dogs that were less owner-oriented and less arousable. Dog's arousal may provoke dog's need to seek human attention, which in turn may promote the development of emotional bond. We evaluated the effect of the dog-owner relationship on dogs' emotional reactivity, quantified with heart rate variability (HRV), behavioral changes, physical activity and dog owner interpretations. Twenty nine adult dogs encountered five different emotional situations (i.e., stroking, a feeding toy, separation from the owner, reunion with the owner, a sudden appearance of a novel object). The results showed that both negative and positive situations provoked signs of heightened arousal in dogs. During negative situations, owners' ratings about the heightened emotional arousal correlated with lower HRV, higher physical activity and more behaviors that typically index arousal and fear. The three factors of The Monash Dog-Owner Relationship Scale (MDORS) were reflected in the dogs' heart rate variability and behaviors: the Emotional Closeness factor was related to increased HRV (p = 0.009), suggesting this aspect is associated with the secure base effect, and the Shared Activities factor showed a trend toward lower HRV (p = 0.067) along with more owner-directed behaviors reflecting attachment related arousal. In contrast, the Perceived Costs factor was related to higher HRV (p = 0.009) along with less fear and less owner-directed behaviors, which may reflect the dog's more independent personality. In conclusion, dogs' emotional reactivity and the dog-owner relationship modulate each other, depending on the aspect of the relationship and dogs' individual responsivity.
Subject: Canis familiaris
heart rate variability
autonomic nervous system
human-animal interaction
413 Veterinary science
Peer reviewed: Yes
Rights: cc_by
Usage restriction: openAccess
Self-archived version: publishedVersion

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