New research from the Oregon State University revealed that dogs may synchronize their behavior with the children they live with. The study, which was published in the journal Animal Cognition, sheds light on how a canine companion may bond with their human family.

Researchers looked at interactions between 30 children from the ages of eight and 17 and their family dogs. The researchers instructed each child how to walk their dog through an empty room with color-coded tape lines on the floor.

photo: Helena Lopes via Pexels

Each child-dog pair’s walk was videotaped and analyzed for the degree of active synchrony (the amount of time each pair moved or was stationary together), proximity, and orientation/same direction of movement. The researchers found a higher level of active synchrony than they had expected—but less than what is typically found in dog-adult interactions.

Even though this research shows dogs don’t synchronize their behavior to match children to the same extent they do with their adult pet parents, the study’s results were still significant. Oregon State animal behaviorist Monique Udell, the lead author of the study said, “The great news is that this study suggests dogs are paying a lot of attention to the kids that they live with.”

Udell continued, “They are responsive to them and, in many cases, behaving in synchrony with them, indicators of positive affiliation and a foundation for building strong bonds.” The researcher added, “Sometimes we don’t give children and dogs enough credit. Our research suggests that with some guidance we can provide important and positive learning experiences for our kids and our dogs starting at a much earlier age, something that can make a world of difference to the lives of both.”

—Erica Loop



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