Chicago, USA: Researchers found that pups are born ready to communicate with people. A research paper published on 3 June 2021 in the journal Current Biology noted that puppies exhibited social skills and interest in human faces by eight weeks of age.
In addition, it seems some dogs do better than their counterparts (in communication) due to their genetics.
To investigate their developmental and genetic origins, researchers tested 375 eight-week-old dog retriever puppies on a number of cognitive and behavioural tests.
The study said the researchers hypothesised that if dogs’ social skills for cooperating with humans are biologically prepared, they should emerge robustly in early development, not require extensive socialisation or learning, and exhibit heritable variation.
They found that: "Puppies were highly skillful at using diverse human gestures, and we found no evidence that their performance required learning. Critically, over 40 percent of the variation in dogs’ point-following abilities and attention to human faces was attributable to genetic factors."
Study author Emily Bray, of the University of Arizona, USA adds: "All these findings suggest that dogs are biologically prepared for communication with humans." This communication worked when people also initiated the interaction by speaking to the puppies in a high-pitched voice.
Bray and her colleagues have been conducting research with dogs in collaboration with Canine Companions, a US service dog organisation.
Bray said. "Our findings might therefore point to an important piece of the domestication story, in that animals with a propensity for communication with our own species might have been selected for in the wolf populations that gave rise to dogs."
Researchers now plan to identify the genes that contribute to the puppies' behaviours.