Sarah C. Martinez1, Annmarie Cano1, Rita J. Casey1, Amy Johnson2, Dana May1, & Lee H. Wurm1
1: Wayne State University
2: Teacher’s Pet of Michigan
The growing interest in the mechanisms through which human-animal interaction (HAI) benefits humans suggests that new measures are needed to assess human bonding, especially to non-owned animals (i.e., animals that are not the human’s pet). The current study addressed this need by developing and testing a new measure to assess human bonding behavior with non-owned animals, during an animal-assisted intervention that incorporated shelter dogs. An observational measure, a 12-item Bonding with Dog Checklist (BoDC), was created based on prior work on dog bonding and attachment. Participants in the study were incarcerated adolescents residing in two juvenile detention centers (N = 131). An Exploratory Factor Analysis resulted in a final 7-item measure with a single factor structure and good inter-item reliability (alpha = .864). Raters used the 7-item BoDC to assess bonding of youth with dogs as they trained or walked shelter dogs during a 10-week intervention. Seventeen raters were trained in use of the observational measure and attended weekly supervision meetings. BoDC scores increased over the sessions and the BoDC was moderately correlated with a measure of dog attachment in the first half of the intervention, providing some evidence for construct validity. These results provide preliminary evidence for the BoDC as a reliable and valid measure to assess human bonding to animals that are not their personal companions.