Many articles on the subject of dog ownership and dog training, as well as many proverbs describe the dog as man’s best friend.
But is this really the case? Is the dog domesticated to such an extent that it is always and automatically attached to its owner in a trusting and loyal manner?
In his latest book, British biologist John Bradshaw details experiments to study how dogs make friends with humans!
The structure of the investigation
His studies were about finding out how much and when a puppy needs to have contact with people in order for a trusting relationship to develop.
For this purpose, several puppies were brought into a spacious enclosure and completely cut off from contact with people.
The puppies were divided into several groups. The individual groups should then move to people in different growth and maturity phases for 1 week each.
In the course of this week, each puppy was played extensively for a good 1 ½ hours a day.
After that week, there was again no contact for the remainder of the time leading up to her release from the trial.
The first group of puppies came into contact with humans at the age of 2 weeks.
At this age, however, the puppies still sleep a lot and so no real contact between dog and human could be established.
The 3-week-old group, on the other hand, was extremely curious, lively, and fascinated by the sudden closeness to humans.
A group of puppies was always brought into the house of the carers with an age interval of one week and the observations of the behavior towards humans were recorded.
At 3, 4 and 5 weeks, the puppies were interested and ready to get involved with people spontaneously or at least after a few minutes.
Caution and patience
The first strong signs that the puppies were suspicious or scared of being around people they didn’t know until then came at the age of 7 weeks.
When these puppies moved from their human-free enclosure to their caregiver’s apartment, it took 2 full days of patience and careful approach until the pup responded to the contact and started playing with its human!
With each additional week of age the puppies were at their first direct human contact, this period of cautious approach increased.
Puppies from 9 weeks of age had to be intensively and patiently encouraged for at least half a week to interact with their owners and build up enough trust to be played with.
The termination of the experiment and realization
In the 14th week the experiment was finished and all puppies went into the hands of loving people for their future lives.
During the adjustment phase to the new life, the puppies were further observed and insights were gained. It was now necessary to measure the age at which contact was best for the relationship between dog and human.
Since the puppies had only ever lived with people of different ages for 1 week during the 14 weeks, it was also important to see to what extent the puppies still remember this contact and thus approach their new people more quickly.
The puppies, which had human contact at the age of 2 weeks, took a little time, but integrated wonderfully into their new families.
All puppies with contact to humans between the 3rd and 11th week of life have adapted relatively quickly to their humans and the new conditions.
However, puppies that haven’t had human contact until they are 12 weeks old have never really gotten used to their new owners!
Anyone who is toying with the idea of buying a puppy should urgently enter their life as early as possible. The time window of the 3rd to 10th or 11th week of life is extremely small.
Reputable breeders encourage early introductions and encourage socializing visits before the pup ultimately moves in with its human!