So Gail asked me something quite unexpected when we were out walking by the river yesterday.
"Bertie, tell me truthfully, you do like me don't you?"
This question came as a surprise as heretofore I had never thought of my owner as the sort of needy person who constantly seeks reassurance in this manner.
So I stopped and gave her a friendly smile before asserting my customary independence.
It was only after we arrived home and I noticed this headline in Gail's 'New Scientist' magazine that I worked out the source of her concern.
So it seems some researchers in South America have found that dog owners tend to over-estimate the strength of the bond they have with their pets.
I must say, I think I would have enjoyed taking part in this particular scientific study, as it apparently involved fitting free-roaming pet dogs with GPS collars and tracking their journeys on Navarino Island in Southern Chile for three weeks. At the end of the roaming period each dog's relationship with its owner was assessed using an 'attachment test' adapted from parent-child bonding research in humans. The dogs who roamed furthest tended to rate low on the attachment test, despite their owners having previously considered the bond with the dog to be strong.
Now I think we can all see some potential flaws in the methodology of this study, and perhaps doubt its applicability to fox terriers living in urban Scotland. And the lack of any mention of the use of treats to reinforce the bonding process is, I think, a serious omission.
Nonetheless, I would be quite happy to do my bit for science and volunteer to join the next phase of the research on Navarino Island - the more so as I read that one of the dogs in the original study travelled 28 kilometers from base and several of them brought home carcasses of native birds and muskrats.
It all sounds tremendously good fun, don't you think?