Personality Traits and Owner-Dog Attachment in a Canadian Sample

Morag G. Ryan, Anne E. Storey, Rita E. Anderson, and Carolyn J. Walsh
Memorial University of Newfoundland

Much of the literature on owner-dog attachment and the influence of personality on the owner-dog relationship has originated in Europe, with few studies in North America. To address this imbalance, 29 owner-dog dyads from a Canadian population were tested in the Strange Situation Test (SST) and owners completed assessments of their own personalities (NEO-FFI-3), the personalities of their dogs (MCPQ-R), and their level of attachment to their dogs (DAQ). Attachment scores were comparable to those in previous research, and all owner-dog dyads were deemed to be securely attached. However, no predicted “matching” of seemingly analogous personality traits (e.g., human and dog Neuroticism) was found, and there was no relationship between dog personality and attachment behaviours during the SST. In contrast, owners with higher Extraversion scores initiated more contact with their dogs in the first reunion episode of the SST (following separation). Owners scoring low on Openness and/or Neuroticism had dogs with higher scores for Training Focus, suggesting that these dogs could more easily attend to a calm, stable owner. Owners who scored high in Openness had dogs with lower Amicability scores, possibly indicating more tolerance of a less desirable dog trait by such owners. Differences between the findings of this study and those conducted in Europe suggest that more emphasis should be given to the possible impact of cultural variation on the behaviours of and perceived relationships between owners and their dogs.

Division 17, Section 13 of the American Psychological Association