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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Received: 30 October 2019 / Revised: 13 November 2019 / Accepted: 14 November 2019 / Published: 21 November 2019
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.