Presentation Title

Social buffering of the stress response in dogs from diverse backgrounds

Advisor Information

Rosemary Strasser

Location

UNO Criss Library, Room 249

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Start Date

3-3-2017 9:45 AM

End Date

3-3-2017 10:00 AM

Abstract

The attachment bonds between dogs and humans share many of the features of the attachment bonds between mothers and infants, including the ability of a caregiver to act as a buffer against a physiological stress response during distressful situations (i.e., social buffering). No studies to date have weighed the importance of how differing environments may affect dogs’ attachment bonds to humans, and subsequently this social buffering effect. I explored the behavioral and physiological responses of dogs from diverse environments in response to a social stressor while accompanied by either their owner or an unfamiliar human. Dogs rescued from adverse conditions and a comparison sample were approached threatening stranger either with their owner present or with an unfamiliar human present. Their behavioral responses before, during, and following the threat were assessed, as were cortisol levels (i.e., a steroid hormone considered as a physiological correlate of stress). When separated from their owner and presented with a stressor, dogs from adverse backgrounds displayed more fearful responses to the threatening stranger, less social behavior towards the unfamiliar human, and higher cortisol levels relative to dogs that were accompanied by their owners. Conversely, dogs from a comparison sample displayed reactive and friendly responses to the threatening stranger, similar rates of social behavior towards the unfamiliar person, and no differences in cortisol levels between conditions. These findings ultimately indicate that adverse environments have lasting impacts of the relationships of dogs with humans (i.e., insecure attachment bonds with their owners and increased fear of unfamiliar humans).

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Mar 3rd, 9:45 AM Mar 3rd, 10:00 AM

Social buffering of the stress response in dogs from diverse backgrounds

UNO Criss Library, Room 249

The attachment bonds between dogs and humans share many of the features of the attachment bonds between mothers and infants, including the ability of a caregiver to act as a buffer against a physiological stress response during distressful situations (i.e., social buffering). No studies to date have weighed the importance of how differing environments may affect dogs’ attachment bonds to humans, and subsequently this social buffering effect. I explored the behavioral and physiological responses of dogs from diverse environments in response to a social stressor while accompanied by either their owner or an unfamiliar human. Dogs rescued from adverse conditions and a comparison sample were approached threatening stranger either with their owner present or with an unfamiliar human present. Their behavioral responses before, during, and following the threat were assessed, as were cortisol levels (i.e., a steroid hormone considered as a physiological correlate of stress). When separated from their owner and presented with a stressor, dogs from adverse backgrounds displayed more fearful responses to the threatening stranger, less social behavior towards the unfamiliar human, and higher cortisol levels relative to dogs that were accompanied by their owners. Conversely, dogs from a comparison sample displayed reactive and friendly responses to the threatening stranger, similar rates of social behavior towards the unfamiliar person, and no differences in cortisol levels between conditions. These findings ultimately indicate that adverse environments have lasting impacts of the relationships of dogs with humans (i.e., insecure attachment bonds with their owners and increased fear of unfamiliar humans).