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On National Puppy Day, A Clue Into A Dog's Behavior

NOEL KING, HOST:

Today is National Puppy Day. And if you have a puppy, you know that they can be clingy. They look to their owners for guidance and praise and, of course, treats. Now, this is understandable in a scientific sense. You are the pack leader.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Meaning you are a pack leader, Noel, at your home there.

KING: Sure am (laughter).

INSKEEP: But an Oregon State University study suggests that family dogs also take cues from the smaller members of the pack.

MONIQUE UDELL: They are synchronizing their behavior with the children to an extent that is higher than what we would expect from chance, meaning that when their child is walking or orienting in a particular direction, the dogs are matching this.

INSKEEP: Professor Monique Udell led the study. Her team would bring a child and their dog into a large, wide open arena.

UDELL: We have tape on the floor with various marks and different colors that indicate whether the child should be walking slowly, walking quickly, stopping or changing direction. We're really interested in what the dog freely chooses to do in this situation.

INSKEEP: The dogs freely chose to stick with their kids no matter the breed.

KING: Scientifically speaking, this seems to mean your dog loves your kid. Now dogs do tend to mirror their adults more closely than children. But Monique Udell thinks that's because adults just do more of the caretaking.

UDELL: And we think there's great potential to improve this bond between children and dogs by encouraging children to take more responsibility for caretaking activities and also give them opportunities to train their dogs.

KING: More bonding between dogs and kids means less work for parents. Welcome news on National Puppy Day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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