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Open AccessArticle

Forgotten, But Not Lost—Alloparental Behavior and Pup–Adult Interactions in Companion Dogs

Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/c, 1117 Budapest, Hungary
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Animals 2019, 9(12), 1011; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121011
Received: 30 October 2019 / Revised: 13 November 2019 / Accepted: 14 November 2019 / Published: 21 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dog Behaviour, Physiology and Welfare)
Companion dogs are vastly popular animals; however, we know surprisingly little about their natural parental behaviors. Meanwhile, although wolves, dingoes, and, to an extent, even free-ranging dogs show several forms of alloparental behaviors, the parental care among companion dogs is thought to be solely provided by the mother. We circulated an international survey for dog breeders, asking them about the forms of alloparental behaviors they observed among their dogs, as well as further interactions between the puppies and other adult dogs at home. Our results show that allonursing and feeding of the pups by regurgitation is a widespread phenomenon among companion dogs. The behavior of young puppies regarding, for example, their reaction to other dogs’ barking was also influenced by the timing of their access to the other dogs at the breeder’s home. Based on the breeders’ observations, sexual status and age of the other dogs affected the way they interacted with the puppies, and also the way the puppies’ mother interacted with them. These results highlight the importance of dog–puppy interactions during the early weeks of life, an often neglected area compared to the well-known elements of puppy socialization with human beings.
Socialization with humans is known to be a pivotal factor in the development of appropriate adult dog behavior, but the role and extent of dog–dog interactions in the first two months of life is rarely studied. Although various forms of alloparental behaviors are described in the case of wild-living canids, the social network of companion dogs around home-raised puppies is almost unknown. An international online survey of companion dog breeders was conducted, asking about the interactions of other dogs in the household with the puppies and the pups’ mother. Based on the observations of these breeders, our study showed an intricate network of interactions among adult dogs and puppies below the age of weaning. Alloparental behaviors (including suckling and feeding by regurgitation) were reportedly common. Independent of their sex, other household dogs mostly behaved in an amicable way with the puppies, and in the case of unseparated housing, the puppies reacted with lower fear to the barks of the others. Parousness, sexual status, and age of the adult dogs had an association with how interested the dogs were in interacting with the puppies, and also with how the mother reacted to the other dogs. Our study highlights the possible importance of dog–dog interactions during the early life of puppies in forming stable and low-stress interactions with other dogs later in life. View Full-Text
Keywords: behavior; dog; alloparental care; puppies; breeders behavior; dog; alloparental care; puppies; breeders
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Pongrácz, P.; Sztruhala, S.S. Forgotten, But Not Lost—Alloparental Behavior and Pup–Adult Interactions in Companion Dogs. Animals 2019, 9, 1011.

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