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New Study Shows That Parenting Skills Even Apply To Guide Dogs

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    University of Pennsylvania researchers studied the early development, parenting and subsequent performance of 98 puppies who underwent guide dog training. Dogs who received more independence and less support from their mothers were more likely to be successful in becoming a guide dog, and they also demonstrated improved problem-solving skills. So another way of saying it is, dogs that were more likely to succeed with their guide dog training where more brought up with "tough love" moms. The pups that were brought up with a more attentive mother, one that interacts, nursing, grooming and spending time with the puppies, were unfortunately more likely to be released from the guide dog program.


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     "Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing," said lead study researcher Emily Bray. Studies however don't give the direct point of why the puppies would do better or worse regarding their upbringing. She did however suggest that, "one possibility is that the dogs that are having overbearing or coddling mothers are never given the chance to deal with small challenges on their own, and is detrimental to their later behavior and outcome in their problem solving [….] Another possibility is that [the puppies for whom] the mothers are always around are also the most anxious or stressed." These puppies learn how to fend for themselves and face mild adversity—like maybe not having Mom around for a good cuddle.

    Director of Canine Medicine and Surgery at the Seeing Eye Dog, Veterinarian Dolores Holle commented, "What I was happy about was that there is a study being done about early life experiences in dogs […] If the mom is trying to protect her pups against small challenges, then they will not be suited for the big challenges."

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    The study included three breeds: German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and Golden retrievers. The puppies were followed from the first weeks of life for several years. Interestingly, Labrador retrievers tended to wash out from the program, while Golden retrievers tended to succeed. Bray was hesitant to comment on if the same findings can be applied to humans. In the events of hovering parents or the tough love kind. She stated, "I think people can draw parallels, but I think you also have to be careful because they are different species." She added, "The nice thing about dogs is that they are a lot less complicated than humans." 

    But don't worry! Just because the puppies that didn't make the Guide Dog program doesn't mean they aren't capable of being loving dogs! They actually tend to be more social with people. Meaning they are placed early with loving homes, and spend their days as a loving pet!


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