The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is characterized by greatly reduced parenting investment compared with the wild type wolf (C. l. lupus) from which it is descended. Unlike wolf pups, which are reared by both parents into their second year of life, dog pups are abandoned by their mother at weaning around eight weeks of age. This relatively small parental involvement may contribute to the high pup mortality observed in dogs not living as pets. We hypothesized that people would find dog pups most attractive around weaning age when conspecific parental care is significantly reduced and pup mortality rate is high. Younger and older pups would benefit less from human intervention because in the former case the mother is providing care, and in the latter their survival is already compromised. To test this hypothesis, 51 participants rated the attractiveness of 39 black and white headshot photographs presented o. computer screen of dog pups from three breeds (Jack Russell Terrier, Cane Corso, and White Shepherd), from birth t. months old. In line with our hypothesis, attractiveness of Cane Corsos peaked at 6.3 weeks of age; Jack Russell Terriers’ attractiveness peaked at 7.7 weeks; and White Shepherds were most attractive at 8.3 weeks. There were also differences in attractiveness between the breeds, with Cane Corsos rated less attractive than the other two breeds. If this attractiveness motivates humans to care for the dog pups and thereby improves pup survival, this could confer significant advantages to dogs, and may contribute to our understanding of the process of domestication.
- dog pups
- human–animal interaction