The influence of maternal care in dogs’ development

10 June 2019 – News

Maternal care influences the development of the brain, behaviour, social skills and emotional systems of many mammals. It also plays a decisive role in neonatal survival and is the main source of stimuli during early postnatal environment.

To determine the influence of maternal care during the first three weeks in the life of a dog, 72 puppies from 12 different litters, were included in a study. During the study period they were living with their mothers in home environments.  The puppies’ responses were assessed at two months old, using arena and isolation tests.

For the arena test, the puppies were placed in an enclosed unfamiliar area, with a stranger and four different toys, for five minutes. For the isolation test, the puppies stayed in an unknown environment for three minutes without any social support. During both tests, their behaviours were recorded and classified according to an agreed list.

The results showed that the amount of maternal care received by puppies was positively associated with both separation-related stress and their interest in human strangers. It was found to be negatively correlated with exploration and play.  The results confirm that social and physical environmental enrichment, together with maternal behaviour, heavily influence the development of puppies.

Guardini , G.; Bowen, J; Mariti, Ch.; Fatjó J.; Sighieri C.; Gazzano A. Influence of Maternal Care on Behavioural Development of Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris) Living in a Home Environment. Animals 2017, 7, 93; doi:10.3390/ani7120093.