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Survival of the cutest

Above: How can you say ‘No’ to this face? Most of us can’t, ensuring the survival of the cutest.

“The secret of dogs’ success isn’t in their intelligence; it’s in their ability to make friends.”

Cuteness is not a matter of life or death, or so we thought. But Clive Wynne, professor of psychology and director of ASU’s Canine Science Collaboratory, found that the age at which puppies are at their cutest may affect their survival.

Wynne used photographs of Jack Russell terriers, cane corsos and white shepherds, three distinct dog breeds, ranging in age from their first week of life through young adulthood, to research their age of optimal cuteness. From the responses of 51 participants, Wynne concluded that these breeds are at their cutest between six and eight weeks old. At this exact time, when we find puppies most appealing, a mother weans her puppies and pushes them to be independent.

Without this peak in cuteness, puppies could be left to fend for themselves without their mother and without human companionship. “The secret of dogs’ success isn’t in their intelligence; it’s in their ability to make friends,” says Wynne, whose research reveals that dogs have an bonds with other species.

With the aid of private support to the Canine Science Collaboratory, Wynne conducts research to show the impact dogs have on humans and educate the public about their welfare. “Dogs enrich the lives of so many people. I strive to bring the tools of science to ensuring that the dog-human relationship reaches its full potential,” he says.

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