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New research finds puppies hit peak cuteness at 8 weeks old

The exact age puppies hit peak cuteness: New research shows dogs' 'emotional hook' on humans is strongest at 8 weeks old

  • Arizona State University found people believe eight-week-old puppies are cutest
  • Hypothesized connection between weaning age and attractiveness to humans
  • Participants were asked to rank dogs' attractiveness for varying ages and breeds
  • Researchers say puppies' 'emotional hook' on human is biggest at eight weeks

By Mollie Cahillane For Dailymail.com

Published: 11:43 EDT, 16 May 2018 | Updated: 12:15 EDT, 16 May 2018

New research from Arizona State University has found that people believe eight-week-old puppies are cutest. 

The study found that dogs' attractiveness to humans peaks at roughly eight weeks, the same point at which their mother weans them and leaves them to fend for themselves.

There are approximately one billion dogs in the world, 80 percent of which are feral - and, the researchers say human intervention is critical to their survival.

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A study found that dogs' attractiveness to humans peaks at roughly eight weeks, the same point at which their mother weans them and leaves them to fend for themselves. Pictured: Jack Russell puppy
A study found that dogs' attractiveness to humans peaks at roughly eight weeks, the same point at which their mother weans them and leaves them to fend for themselves. Pictured: Jack Russell puppy

A study found that dogs' attractiveness to humans peaks at roughly eight weeks, the same point at which their mother weans them and leaves them to fend for themselves. Pictured: Jack Russell puppy

While spending time in the Bahamas, Clive Wynne, professor of psychology and director of Arizona State University's Canine Science Collaboratory, observed many of the stray dogs and wondered if there was a connection between the pup's weaning age and their level of attractiveness to humans.

He carried out a study using a series of photographs of puppies at different ages, from the first weeks of life through young adulthood. 

Fifty-one 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.

'It came out exactly as I'd hoped it would - that 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,' Wynne said.

There are approximately one billion dogs in the world, 80 percent of which are feral - and, the researchers say human intervention is critical to their survival. Pictured: Two eight-week-old German Shepherds
There are approximately one billion dogs in the world, 80 percent of which are feral - and, the researchers say human intervention is critical to their survival. Pictured: Two eight-week-old German Shepherds

There are approximately one billion dogs in the world, 80 percent of which are feral - and, the researchers say human intervention is critical to their survival. Pictured: Two eight-week-old German Shepherds

Fifty-one participants were asked to rank the puppies' level of attractiveness in each photo. Research found the optimal level of attraction is at eight weeks old. Pictured: Cane corso puppies
Fifty-one participants were asked to rank the puppies' level of attractiveness in each photo. Research found the optimal level of attraction is at eight weeks old. Pictured: Cane corso puppies

Fifty-one participants were asked to rank the puppies' level of attractiveness in each photo. Research found the optimal level of attraction is at eight weeks old. Pictured: Cane corso puppies

'This could be a signal coming through to us of how dogs have evolved to rely on human care. 

'This could be dogs showing us how the bond between human and dog is not just something that we find immensely satisfying in our lives. 

'But for them, it's the absolute bedrock of their existence. That being able to connect with us, to find an emotional hook with us is what actually makes their lives possible.'

Results showed that the pups' attractiveness was lowest at birth and increased to a maximum before 10 weeks of age before declining and then leveling off.

Cane corsos were most attractive to humans at 6.3 weeks, Jack Russells at 7.7 weeks, and white shepherds at 8.3 weeks.

Results showed that the pups' attractiveness was lowest at birth and increased to a maximum before 10 weeks of age before declining and then leveling off. Pictured: An eight-week-old German Shepherd
Results showed that the pups' attractiveness was lowest at birth and increased to a maximum before 10 weeks of age before declining and then leveling off. Pictured: An eight-week-old German Shepherd

Results showed that the pups' attractiveness was lowest at birth and increased to a maximum before 10 weeks of age before declining and then leveling off. Pictured: An eight-week-old German Shepherd

Previous theories have claimed the canine species has survived due to its intelligence, Wynne believes this study shows bonds humans form with dogs is the true reason. Pictured: Adult white shepherds 

'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. 

Previous theories have claimed the canine species has survived due to its intelligence, Wynne believes this study shows bonds humans form with dogs is the true reason.

'I think that the intelligence of dogs is not the fundamental issue,' he said.

'It's this tremendous capacity to form intimate, strong, affectionate bonds. And that starts at maybe eight weeks of life, when they're so compelling to us.'

DOES USING YOUR HANDS AND A HIGH-PITCHED VOICE HELP YOU COMMUNICATE WITH DOGS?

Using your hands and a high-pitched voice really does help you communicate with dogs, according to recent research. 

A January 2017 study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that humans use an even higher pitch when talking to puppies, and that this tactic really does help the animals to pay attention more.

The research showed that talking to puppies using dog-directed speech makes them react and attend more to their human instructor than regular speech.

It’s also been proven that we can communicate with dogs through physical gestures. 

From puppy age on, dogs respond to human gestures, such as pointing, in ways other species can not.

The test is very simple. Place two identical cups covering small pieces of food in front of your dog, making sure it cannot see the food and doesn’t have any information about the contents of the cups. 

Now point to one of the two cups while establishing eye contact with your dog. Your dog will follow your gesture to the cup you pointed to and explore the cup, expecting to find something underneath.

This is because your dog understands that your action is an attempt to communicate.

This is fascinating because not even human’s closest living relatives, chimpanzees, seem to understand that humans communicate intent in this situation.

Nor do wolves – dog’s closest living relatives – even if they are raised like dogs in a human environment.

Source: The Conversation  

'It does seem to me that the dog has something rather special,' Wynne said. 

'Dogs have a very open-ended social program. That they are ready and willing to make friends with anybody.'

However, he emphasizes that people continue to love their dogs throughout their entire lives. 

'[The study] doesn't mean to say that we stop loving our dogs past [eight weeks],' he said. 

'The eight-week point is just the point where the hook is biggest, the ability of the animal to grab our interest is strongest. 

'But, having grabbed our interest, we continue to love them all their lives.' 

 

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