Dog with three puppies

Young canines get a confidence boost from their mothers and from humans. Credit: Auscape/UIG/Getty

Animal behaviour

Puppies trust their mums — and humans

Young dogs facing scary objects look to humans for guidance.

Puppies just two months old take social cues from their mothers and from human companions.

To explore the relationship between human and hound, Claudia Fugazza of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, and her colleagues introduced 48 pups to unfamiliar objects — either a table fan blowing colourful ribbons or a plastic bin making strange noises from a hidden speaker. The puppies looked to their mothers or a nearby human for cues on how to react. Puppies whose mothers were relaxed around the mysterious objects were more likely to muster the courage to approach the objects themselves.

Pups showed a similar confidence boost when paired with a human who responded positively to the objects. The young dogs’ adventurous spirit persisted even after a one-hour delay between watching the human and getting a chance to explore the object.

Despite the taxonomic gulf between people and pups, there is trust between the species, the authors say.