Human–canine bond

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A girl with her dog. Wagifa Island.

Human–canine bonding is the relationship between dogs and humans. This bond can be traced back at least 15,000 years ago to the Bonn-Oberkassel dog that was found buried with two humans. In the United States, over 48% of households have a pet dog.[1] For centuries, dogs have been labeled as "man's best friend", offering love and loyalty to their human counterparts.[2]


Human-canine bonding was recognized by Boris Levinson,[3] who had an immense influence on the establishment of the field of study. Levinson is known for accidentally discovering the benefits of assisted pet therapy. He found that withdrawn and uncommunicative children would interact positively whenever he brought his dog, Jingles, to their therapy sessions. His discovery was further reinforced by Sam and Elizabeth Corson, who were among the first to research and evaluate pet-facilitated therapy.[4]

In the early 1980s the term 'human–animal bond' was officially coined by Leo K. Bustad, who delivered a summary lecture on the Human-Pet Relationship on October 28, 1983, at the International Symposium in Vienna. This symposium was held in honour of Konrad Lorenz, and during his lecture, Bustad praised him for his work on the human–animal bond and encouraged others to build on Lorenz's work on the subject.[5] In the early 1970’s, Konrad Lorenz had developed the field of ethology with his landmark research on the imprinting of behaviours in geese.[6]

Bustad and other pet therapy advocates formed the Delta Society, which was built on the earlier work of Levinson and Croson.[4] In the 1970s and 1980s, national and international conferences led to greater recognition of the human–animal bond. Since then, there has been widespread media coverage of animal-assisted activity and therapy programs and service dog training.[5]


A combat tracker dog with his handler

A study conducted by J.S.J Odendaal in 2003 showed that when humans pet dogs, their bodies release oxytocin, a hormone associated with not only happiness, but bonding and affection as well.[7] According to the social support theory, animals are a source of social support and companionship, which are necessary for well-being.[8] Canines' social impact on humans is especially significant for those who tend to be more isolated, such as children with no siblings[9] or elderly persons.[10] In this view, the animal is part of our community and is an important determinant for psychological well-being. According to self psychology, an animal can be a "self-object" that gives a sense of cohesion, support, or sustenance to a person's sense of self. Self-psychology explains why some animals are so crucial to a person's sense of self and well-being.[11] Dog companionship often gives people a sense of purpose by causing them to develop a daily routine and giving them something to look forward to each day.[12] Studies also show owning a dog reduces stress[13] and alleviates anxiety.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Why Man's Best Friend is Man's Best Friend".
  3. ^ Pet-Oriented Child Psychotherapy (1969) and Pets and Human Development (1979)
  4. ^ a b Catanzaro, T. E. (2003). Section introduction: Human-animal bond and primary prevention. American Behavioral Scientists, 47, 29-30. doi: 10.1177/0002764203255209
  5. ^ a b Hindes, L. M. (2003). Historical perspectives on the human-animal bond. American Behavioral Scientists, 47(1), 7-15. doi: 10.1177/0002764203255206
  6. ^ Nitkin, Patricia. "The Human-Animal Bond", B.C. Cancer Agency, University of British Columbia. Retrieved on 2011-06-19.
  7. ^ Odendaal, J.S.J.; Meintjes, R.A. (May 2003). "Neurophysiological Correlates of Affiliative Behaviour between Humans and Dogs". The Veterinary Journal.
  8. ^ Beck, Alan M. (2003) "Future Directions in Human-Animal Bond Research," American Behavioural Scientist, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 79-93.
  9. ^ Hodgson, K.; Barton, L.; Darling, M.; Antao, V.; Kim, F.A.; Monavvari, A. (2015). "Pets'Impact on Your Patients' Health: Leveraging Benefits and Mitigating Risk". The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 28: 526-534.
  10. ^ "Why Man's Best Friend is Man's Best Friend".
  11. ^ Brown, Sue-Ellen (2011) "Self Psychology and the Human-Animal Bond: An Overview," The Psychology of the Human-Animal Bond, part 2, pp. 137-149.
  12. ^ "Why Man's Best Friend is Man's Best Friend".
  13. ^ Allen, Karen; Shykoff, Barbara; Izzo, Joseph. "Pet ownership, but not ace inhibitor therapy, blunts home blood pressure responses to mental stress". Hypertension (38): 815–820.
  14. ^ Nagengast, S.L.; Baun, M.M.; Megel, M.; Leibowitz, J.M. (December 1997). "The effects of the presence of a companion animal on physiological arousal and behavioral distress in children during a physical examination". Journal of Pediatric Nursing. 12 (6): 323–330.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jon Franklin (1 September 2009). The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-8050-9077-2. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  • Child development: Endenburg, Nienke & vanLith, Hein A. (2010). "The influence of animals on the development of children" The Veterinary Journal
  • Daly, Beth & Morton, L. L. (2009). "Empathetic Differences in Adults as a Function of Childhood and Adult Pet Ownership and Pet Type" Anthrozoos, 22(4), p371-382.
  • Health benefits: Gillum, Richard F. & Obisesan, Thomas O. (2010). "Living with Companion Animals, Physical Activity and Mortality in a U.S. National Cohort" Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 7(6), 2452-2459.
  • Animal-assisted therapy and Animal-assisted activities: Friesen, Lori. (2009). "Exploring Animal-Assisted Programs with Children in School and Therapeutic Contexts" Early childhood education journal, 37(4), p261-267.