Giovanna Guardini, Jon Bowen, Chiara Mariti, Jaume Fatjó, Claudio Sighieri and Angelo Gazzano, 2017
Maternal care in dogs and its impact on the behavioural development of puppies has become the subject of growing research interest. In order to determine the effects of maternal care on the behaviour of family dog puppies, maternal care during the first three weeks after birth was observed in 12 litters of puppies reared in a home environment (72 puppies). The behavioural responses of the puppies were assessed at two months of age, in an arena and an isolation test. In both tests, the amount of maternal care was found to be positively associated with some stress behaviours and, in the arena test, also with the puppies’ interest in an unfamiliar person who was present during the test. These behaviours are similar to those observed during the separation of other young mammals from an attachment figure with which they have a high quality of bond. Amount of maternal care was also found to be negatively associated with exploration and play. The difference in results between the present study and our previous study involving laboratory dogs reared in relative social isolation suggests that the developmental trajectory of puppies is influenced by a combination of maternal behaviour and social and physical environmental enrichment.
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