What Happens When Man's Best Friend Is No Longer?

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Abandoning a Dog

A Monash University researcher is hoping to prevent some of the tens of thousands of dogs that are dumped every year from being abandoned by increasing our understanding of the bond between dogs and their owners.

Ms Michele Silva-Cummin, from the School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine at Monash, is studying this bond to determine what factors may lead to a person giving up a dog.

Every year tens of thousands of dogs are abandoned in Australia, many because they are aggressive, disruptive or unmanageable. But for every dog abandoned many more are kept by their owners, despite showing similar behaviour.

Ms Silva-Cummin is studying the bond between up to 1500 people and their dogs, from the time the dog is six months old to 18 months.

Figures from the RSPCA show that of the 64,593 dogs relinquished nationally in 2002-2003, 24,554 were euthanased.

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Ms Silva-Cummin said that while there were many reasons people were forced to give away a dog, in some instances it could just be a breakdown in the bond between an animal and its owner.

"For most humans who have dogs, the human-dog bond is special and both species live happily together," she said. "And although most people struggle with the concept of abandoning a pet, a large proportion of dogs are abandoned every year.

"In contrast, evidence suggests that many people choose not to relinquish a dog with significant behavioural or physical faults, even though retaining the dog may cause substantial hardship for the owner.

"This indicates that the bond between the dog and the human is the main factor in whether to give the dog away or hang on to it, but we don't know how this bond develops or why sometimes it fails."

Ms Silva-Cummin said that as well as preventing dogs being dumped, a strong bond had positive health implications for dog owners.

"We know that there are significant health benefits to having a pet - people tend to be happier and live longer, but those benefits only apply if there is a strong bond.

Anyone with a puppy and who is interested in taking part in the study should contact Ms Silva-Cummin on 03 9903 2723 or email [email protected]

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