Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Barker, S. B., & Barker, R. T. (1988). The human-canine bond: Closer than family ties. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 10, 46-56.

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to use a projective technique to compare the relationships between human family members with the human-canine relationship. METHODS: Subjects included a purposeful, heterogeneous sample of 122 dog owners from 13 states, Canada, and Great Britain. They included 29 dog show enthusiasts, 66 “typical” dog owners, and 27 elementary school children. Subjects completed the Family Life Space Diagram (FLSD), which involves placing standard symbols to represent family members and dogs within a circle representing one’s life space. A mixed analysis of variance with repeated measures was used to compare distances between the symbols drawn while controlling for type of owner (enthusiast, typical owner, and children). Pearson product-moment correlation was used to determine type and degree of relationship between the self-canine distance and age, family size, total number of dogs owned, and years of dog ownership. RESULTS: A statistically significant difference (p<.01) was found between the self-canine distance and self-average family member distance with the dog closer to self than the average family member. There was no statistically significant difference between the self-canine and self-closest family member distances with the dog placed closer to the self than any humans in 38% of the diagrams. Analysis of significant interactions revealed children placed dogs and family members farther from self than the adult groups. Correlation analysis revealed low and non significant associations between closeness to the dog and the demographic variables studied. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study provide further evidence of the intensity of the human-canine bond.