Man may actually be dog’s best friend, according to research that reveals how a canine’s need for a human is the same as a child’s need for a parent.

Researchers from the Vetmeduni's Messerli Research Institute studied the bond between humans and dogs by testing the animals’ confidence levels with and without their owners. They discovered that the “secure base effect” that exists between parents and children was also present in owner-dog bonding.

In human, parent-child relationships, infants perceive their parent as a “secure base,” and they explore the world more confidently when their caregiver is present.

Researchers tested this by observing how dogs responded to food rewards when the owner was absent, when the owner was silent and when the owner was encouraging. They also tested how the animal responded when the owner was replaced with an unknown person.

They found that the dogs’ attachment to their owners was very similar to the bond between parent and child.

When the owner was present, the dogs would pursue the food reward and address the dog-toy challenges. Whether or not the owner spoke didn’t affect the dog’s behavior — the owner’s presence was enough to encourage the animal.

"One of the things that really surprised us is that adult dogs behave toward their caregivers like human children do," said researcher Lisa Horn in a news release. "It will be really interesting to try to find out how this behavior evolved in the dogs with direct comparisons."

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