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Non-Coddled Puppies Grow Up to be Best Guide Dogs
August 9, 2017
Woof woof woof! Er…I mean, chew on this:
A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests the way a puppy’s mother raises it may be the key to the dog’s success, or failure. A research team at the University of Pennsylvania found that puppies destined for guide dog training are more likely to fail if they’re coddled by their mothers.
Okay, once again, correlation is not causation, and guide dogs are not humans. But (bow) wow.
The puppies apparently spend their time in a kiddie wading pool without water. Compared to, shall we say, Free-Range Dogs, a “hands-on mother is going to be constantly in the pool, licking them, grooming them, interacting with them,” the lead author of the study, Emily Bray, told Capradio in Sacramento.
The researchers found that among the 98 puppies they studied, the actively-mothered ones were more likely to fail a guide dog training program later.
How come? Possibly because the “Free-Range” pups develop the precise set of skills guide dogs need: They’re relaxed and not thrown for a loop when things get stressful or “strange.” Arizona State psych professor Clive Wynne, a dog cognition specialist (there’s a career for you), said that “These dogs need to remain calm under all circumstances.” They also need to know when to disobey, because they “see” that complying would put their handler in danger. In other words, they problem-solve.
So you’ve got dogs who are calm, resilient, smart, resourceful and able to roll with the punches, yet willing to stand up for what they know is right — thanks (perhaps) to the trusting, non-coddling, Free-Range moms who raised them.
Woof. – L
Chief, my father-in-law’s long-ago guide dog, in a portrait by Arnold H. Crane. Crane’s (non-Chief) photos hang in the Art Institute of Chicago.