Because dogs and wolves have so many similarities, scientists often compare the two types of canines. Despite the long list of things they have in common, there are quite a few differences too. For example, wolves raise their pups for up to two years. Dogs, on the other hand, abandon their litters once they are weaned, at around only 6 to 11 weeks of age! Sadly, when dogs are not in the care of humans, this leads to mortality rate of more than 80 percent of puppies during their first year of life.
A new study reveals that this could explain why puppies are so darn adorable. It could be that puppy cuteness isn't just a happy coincidence or a gift from mother nature to humans, it may actually be a survival mechanism.
Peak Puppy Cuteness Alert!
In the past, researchers have discovered that people consider animals to be cuter if they have "infantile features." That is to say, humans think that baby faces are adorable - you know, big eyes, round faces, tiny mouths. So when do puppies fit that description the best?
In the new study, student participants were shown black and white photos of puppies of all ages, ranging from birth to 7 months old. Then, they had to rate each puppy's cuteness level. They looked at three specific breeds: Jack Russell terriers, white shepherds and cane Corsos. In the end, the general consensus was that puppies were least attractive at birth, peaked in cuteness right around 8 weeks of age and then declined in cuteness as they progressed in age.
What does the study mean, practically speaking? It's fascinating to note that exactly when mother dogs are getting tired of their puppies and are ready to leave them to fend for themselves, puppies are at their peak cuteness levels in the eyes of humans. In the May 3 issue of the journal Anthrozoös, researchers wrote, "This attraction of humans to dog pups at that phase of life may have given early dogs, and may continue to give today's free-living dogs, a competitive advantage by being adopted and cared for by humans."
Obviously, this doesn't mean that dogs are less loveable after 8 weeks of age. It simply means that when puppies are about 8 weeks old, they are pretty irresistible, which gets us hooked. And after they've gotten our initial attention, they become part of our families for the rest of their lives. That, my friends, is what we call a win-win situation.