Study: Puppies’ Cuteness Peaks At Eight-Weeks [Video]
A new study from Arizona State suggests that dogs are their cutest at around eight weeks of age, just as they typically are weaned and left to fend for themselves.
Clive Wynne is a professor and the director of Arizona State University’s Canine Science Collaboratory. He spent some time in the Bahamas and observed ‘street dogs’ and their interactions with humans. In a new study published in Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals, Wynne found that a dog’s attractiveness to humans seems to peak around eight weeks of age. He does not believe this to be coincidence, as this is also about the time a mother dog will wean her pups and they are left on their own.
While in the Bahamas, he wondered if the weaning age–when they were so vulnerable to the world–also made them more attractive to humans. He used a series of puppies ranging in age–some as young as a few weeks while others even into young adulthood. He asked 51 people to rank the level of attractiveness they had to the puppies of each photo. The breeds ranked were Cane Corsos, White Shepherds and Jack Russell Terriers.
His results showed that puppies were least attractive at birth, and their maximum attractive levels were before 10 weeks. After 10 weeks, their ‘cuteness’ level declined a bit but then leveled off. The cane corsos were the most attractive to the participants at 6.3 weeks of age, while the Jack Russells were the most attractive when 7.7 weeks old and the white shepherds were cutest at 8.3 weeks old.
Wynne believes this is a sign of how dogs have come to rely on human care through their evolution and domestication. He says that it’s crucial dogs are able to form bonds with humans for their survival, particularly as their mothers wean them, and their level of attractiveness needs to be maximized at this time.
He says that just as their mothers are about done with them, that’s when they become the most attractive to humans, and he believes that this counters theories of dogs’ survival based solely on their intelligence. He says that it’s not just a dog’s intelligence, but its ability to form strong bonds, which they are quite capable of doing at a cute and young eight-weeks-old.
Wynne believes he’ll follow up on the study by either showing participants videos instead of still pictures to look and see if there is something in the way a puppy moves or behaves that may also attract them. He also believes that just because the study shows dogs are their ‘cutest’ at eight-weeks, that only shows that their ‘hook’ into humans may be the greatest then. Still, being incredible animals, he believes they can (and do) move us to love them all their lives.