Study Shows, Dogs of 8 Weeks of Age are Found Most Attractive by Humans
Dogs occupy a special place in our hearts, but there is a time when we find man's best friend most attractive -- at roughly eight weeks, the same point in time at which their mother weans them and leaves them to fend for themselves, a study says.
Dogs occupy a special place in our hearts, but there is a time when we find man’s best friend most attractive — at roughly eight weeks, the same point in time at which their mother weans them and leaves them to fend for themselves, a study says.
The researchers wanted to find out if there was a connection between pups’ weaning age — when they are at their most vulnerable — and their level of attractiveness to humans.
“There is indeed an optimal age of maximum cuteness, and that age does line up pretty closely with the age at which mothers wean their pups,” said lead researcher Clive Wynne, Professor at Arizona State University in the US.
The researchers believe that the findings, published in Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals, could provide insight into the depth and origin of the relationship between humans and dogs.
The study was carried out using a series of photographs of puppies at different ages, from the first weeks of life through young adulthood.
The participants were asked to rank the puppies’ level of attractiveness in each photo. Three distinctive looking breeds were ranked — Jack Russell terriers, cane corsos and white shepherds.
The results showed that the pups’ attractiveness was lowest at birth and increased to a maximum before 10 weeks of age before declining and then levelling off.
“Around seven or eight weeks of age, just as their mother is getting sick of them and is going to kick them out of the den and they’re going to have to make their own way in life, at that age, that is exactly when they are most attractive to human beings,” Wynne said. (IANS)
What’s behind those hard-to-resist puppy dog eyes?
New research suggests that over thousands of years of dog domestication, people preferred pups that could pull off that appealing, sad look. And that encouraged the development of the facial muscle that creates it.
Today, pooches use the muscle to raise their eyebrows and make the babylike expression. That muscle is virtually absent in their ancestors, the wolves.
“You don’t typically see such muscle differences in species that are that closely related,” said Anne Burrows of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, an author of the study released Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dogs differ from wolves in many ways, from having shorter snouts, smaller sizes and more expressive faces. And unlike wolves, dogs heavily rely on human eye contact, whether to know when someone’s talking to them or when they can’t solve a problem, like hopping a fence or getting out the door.
Burrows and her colleagues examined the eye muscles in the cadavers of six dogs and two wolves. They found dogs have a meaty eye muscle to lift their eyebrows and make puppy dog eyes. But in wolves, the same muscle was stringy or missing.
The scientists also recorded 27 dogs and nine wolves as each stared at a person. Pet pooches frequently and intensely pulled back their eyebrows to make sad expressions, while the wolves rarely made these faces, and never with great intensity.
The researchers believe dogs, over their relatively short 33,000 years of domestication, used this eye muscle to communicate, possibly goading people to feed or care for them — or at least take them out to play. And people, perhaps unwittingly, obliged.
Dog experts not involved with the study were impressed.
“The implications are quite profound,” said Brian Hare from Duke University, who edited the article. Hare wrote in an email that these muscles almost certainly developed because they gave dogs an advantage when interacting with people, and people have been unaware of it.
“The proof has been in their puppy dog eyes all this time!” he said.
Evan MacLean at the University of Arizona called the findings fascinating, but cautioned that the muscle difference could be an indirect effect of other changes rather than a specific response to human influence.
Clive Wynne of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University said: “Kudos to the researchers for thinking of a cool way to investigate an important aspect of dogs’ success” with humans.
But he noted in an email that the study has a few snags, particularly the small sampling — only five dog breeds were examined and videos were mainly of Staffordshire bull terriers — and the lack of background information about each animal.
“Did these wolves regularly meet people bearing gifts that might be worth asking for with an endearing face?” he asked.