Journal Title

Frontiers in Psychology

Publication Date



The present study explored the effects of intranasal oxytocin, a naturally occurring hormone, on the behavior of pet dogs during an attachment test. Each dog participated in two testing sessions. On one visit saline was administered nasally, and on another, oxytocin was administered nasally. For half of the dogs (n = 20), solutions were administered with a Mucosal Atomization Device (MAD) and for half of the dogs (n = 20), solutions were administered using a nasal spray bottle. Condition order was counterbalanced and a double-blind methodology was employed. Following a 30-min wait period after administration of solutions, dog-owner pairs participated in the Secure Base Test, a short attachment test consisting of three 2-min phases: (1) Baseline- the owner was present, dogs were able to freely explore the testing room (2) Alone- dogs were left alone in the testing room (3) Return- owners re-entered the room and were reunited with their dog. In each phase the dog was evaluated for contact seeking, exploration, and avoidance behaviors. Although, oxytocin administration was expected to increase owner-directed proximity and contact seeking behavior, this effect was not observed. In fact, in the baseline phase, dogs spent significantly more time seeking the proximity of their owners when they received saline than when they received OT (p < 0.05). Sex differences were also assessed for the behavioral variables of interest in the Secure Base Test, and results indicated that OT did not affect dogs' behavior in the alone phase, but when saline was administered, females spent significantly more time in contact with the door than males in the alone phase (p < 0.05). Overall, the effects of nasally administered oxytocin on attachment related behavior appeared to be limited or inconsistent for this pet dog population.

Author Supplied Keywords

Oxytocin, Secure base, Dogs, Social behavior, Human-animal interactions, Attachment style


Dogs--research; Human-animal relationships

Publication Information

Archived version is the final published version.





Document Type

Journal Article