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A study published in the journal Animals shows evidence that the sleep patterns of dogs sleeping with their owners in new locations were influenced by their attachment. The study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Ethology at Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary.
Numerous behavioral studies have already examined the attachment relationship between a dog and its owner. This time, the researchers were interested in determining whether, like in children, attachment in dogs affects the quality of sleep in a new setting.
Marta Gacsi, senior researcher of the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group said, “Last year, we discovered in an fMRI study that the dog’s attachment influences how rewarding it feels when it hears its owner’s voice. The current result is another important similarity in the mother-child context.”
Parallel studies of dogs’ attachment behavior and sleep EEG were conducted to find the explanation. The Strange Situation Test, created by psychologists to evaluate the link between a human child and their mother, was modified to test the attachment bonds between 42 dogs and their owners.
“Sleep plays an important role in processes such as learning, emotion processing and development. When a human (or dog) sleeps, it is important to sleep ‘well’, so restfully. The quality of sleep can be measured by different parameters, for example, by sleep fragmentation or the length of deep sleep. We were interested in how the dog-owner bond influences sleep quality,” said Vivien Reicher, PhD student at the Department of Ethology, ELTE.
According to the research, spending more time in deep sleep, the most soothing sleep period was linked to greater attachment levels.
“Sleeping in a new place for the first time can be stressful. But these results suggest that dogs with higher attachment scores sleep better, presumably because the owner of these dogs provides a more secure environment for their dog, thus they can relax and have a good nap,” explains the first author of the publications, Cecilia Carreiro.