Study Shows Pups Raised With “Tough Love” Make Better Guide Dogs

Researchers at The Seeing Eye training school in New Jersey have discovered that puppies whose mothers are less attentive tend to have more success as guide dog candidates.A seeing eye dog must be calm in the face of loud noises and ever-changing stimuli in order to help its master navigate the world.In a study of 98 puppies from birth to adulthood, those more intensely mothered tended to be more reactive and therefore less suited to guide dog work.

The more aloof mothers produced calmer, more successful offspring.“One of the findings was that pups who were perhaps overly mothered, their moms were overly attentive to them, spending a lot of time with them, licking them copiously, that those pups were not as likely to be selected as guides,” Dr. Dolores Holle, director of canine medicine and surgery at The Seeing Eye said.

The researchers watched more than 115 hours of puppy cam video in order to study the many different maternal behaviors of the dogs. For example, some lay beside their sleeping pups, while others climbed out of their enclosure in order to give the pups – and themselves – a bit of space.

About 70 percent of dogs who enter guide dog training programs are successful. This research could help that number improve if the trainers at The Seeing Eye can encourage the dogs to adopt less attentive parenting styles.

Pups who do not make the cut as guide dogs may have bright futures as military working dogs. The very traits that disqualify them as seeing eye dogs – high energy and reactivity – also make them well suited for this area of service.