Behavior

Smothering seeing-eye training

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Science  06 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6359, pp. 77-78
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6359.77-c

Less involved mothers produce more successful guide dogs.

PHOTO: CYCLONPHOTO/ISTOCK

Guide dogs are valued for their ability to follow complex instructions and for resisting impulsive behaviors—admirable human traits, too. Guide dogs undergo controlled rearing and training programs and thus offer an opportunity for investigating the development of adult temperament. Bray et al. modeled how maternal behavior predicted the performance of pups. Vigilant, interactive mothers tended to rear pups that barked readily and were more aggressive—fine for a police dog. But for a guide dog, calmness, obedience, and concentration are needed. Puppies with less involved mothers—for instance, who stand up while suckling—are more likely to succeed on these scores. Too much neglect is stressful and a bad thing, but smothering leads to individuals who lack the experience of learning to deal with stress and solving problems.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1704303114 (2017).

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