Award Date

August 2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Anthropology

First Committee Member

Peter Gray

Second Committee Member

Debra Martin

Third Committee Member

Levent Atici

Fourth Committee Member

Murray Millar

Number of Pages

91

Abstract

The purpose of my Master’s Thesis research is to determine if and what type of relationship exists between owner-to-dog attachment levels and the degree of aversion used in dog training. I also sought to determine if owner characteristics such as parental status, income, gender, and the like influenced the degree of aversion used. My primary hypothesis is that a negative correlation exists between attachment to one’s dog and aversion used in training. That is, as attachment scores increase, aversion scores decrease. In addition to testing this hypothesis, I collected data to determine if there are correlations between the following: gender and aversion used in dog training; parental status and aversion used in dog training; and, socioeconomic status and aversion used in dog training.

Data collection took place via online, self-report surveys and included demographic information on owners and their dogs, assessment of owner to dog attachment levels (utilizing the Pet Attachment Life Impact Scale), and a measure of aversion used in training. The survey also included open-ended questions that provided owners with the opportunity to add ethnographic value to the data. To validate the breakdown of training philosophies, I completed a pilot survey of professional trainers in which I asked them to classify training philosophies and assign degrees of aversion to commonly recommended methods and techniques. The results of this dog trainer survey aided in the construction of the aversion measurement tool included in the dog owner survey mentioned above.

My recruitment strategy involved multiple Internet outlets along with local canvassing. The sample consisted of 673 respondents from across the United States. Of that population, 90.1% were female and 88.0% identified as white. Additionally, 78.6% were not parents, but a large percentage of the population (65%) considered themselves their dog’s parent or guardian. A weak positive correlation (r=.217, p<.001) was found between participants’ attachment and the reported frequency of aversion used in training their dogs. These results run contrary to my hypothesis. This thesis discusses the interpretations of these findings, including with respect to changing human-dog interactions in the United States.

This thesis provides a window into a growing phenomenon of “pet parents,” with data that could drive future research. The human-canine bond is an area of study still in development. In addition, a growing population of individuals identify as “childfree,” choosing not to raise children. Many of these individuals are “parenting” their pets, instead, and the majority of the current sample seems to reflect that population. A large and growing body of research exists concerning the perspective of the dog (cognition, neuroscience, and emotion research in particular), while most data collected from the human perspective focuses on epidemiological and physiological assessments of dog ownership. Future research could focus more on the emotionality of dog ownership to uncover driving factors behind, and to improve, the choices made in care and training.

Keywords

anthrozoology; childless women; dog attachment; dog training; human-canine attachment; pet parents

Disciplines

Biological and Physical Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology

Language

English


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