It’s something that every puppy owner has wondered at one time or another; what exactly makes a puppy grow up to be a good dog? New research published in the journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science has some surprising answers.
The study involved 71 German Shepherd puppies, who had been identified as potential working dogs for the Swedish military. Researchers assessed the behaviour and character traits of the puppies in their first 12 months, and compared them to the results of a formal temperament test taken later to determine their suitability for military work. This suitability test included tests on how willing the dogs were to cooperate and interact with humans, as well as their reactions to loud noises and dummies which appeared suddenly. The dogs were bred together and placed with host families for the first year of their lives.
Some of the results were much as you might expect; dogs who were found to be fearful of people, objects or other dogs when they were puppies didn’t perform as well as others on the suitability test. However, the study drew two conclusions which they weren’t expecting.
Firstly, it was found that puppies who tended to be hyperactive or restless performed better on the suitability test taken when they were older. These traits, and others such as following shadows and light spots and having trouble settling down, tend to be associated with behavioural problems, so it seems counterintuitive that these puppies would grow up to be the better-suited working dogs. It may be, perhaps, that these behaviours encouraged the host family to give those dogs more attention, thus improving their interaction with humans.
Secondly, it was found that puppies who were left alone longer during the day – for an average of around three hours rather than two – also performed better on the suitability test. However, it’s unclear whether they became more suitable as a result of being left alone, or whether they tended to be left alone for longer by the host family because they had already shown that they were able to behave well on their own at an earlier age.
One thing that is generally agreed upon is that every dog, from puppies upwards, needs the right amount of exercise to encourage good behaviour and keep them healthy. Because it can be difficult to fit this into a busy lifestyle, here at Dog School we offer dog walking services in Croydon as well as a range of training classes, to help you bring up a good dog.