Most of the studies investigating the effect of early rearing environment in dogs used laboratory dogs and reported that early experiences markedly affect the puppies’ behavior. However, the subjects of these experiments cannot be considered as representatives of family dogs.
In this study, we investigated whether different raising conditions shape social behavior toward humans in 8-week-old family dog puppies of two breeds, Labrador and Czechoslovakian wolf dog. The puppies were tested in a series of tests that represented typical situations of family dogs.
We found that Czechoslovakian wolf dog puppies were more active than Labrador puppies in general, as they were more likely to explore the environment and the objects and spent more time doing so. Tendency to gaze at humans also varied between breeds, but in a context-specific way. Additionally, puppies housed separately from their mother interacted more with toys, puppies housed in a kennel tended to stay closer to the experimenter than puppies raised in the house, and puppies housed in a kennel tended to stay in the proximity of the experimenter more than puppies raised in the house.
Our results provide evidence for early keeping conditions influencing social behavior and also highlight breed differences in puppies’ behavior. Whether these differences are due to different developmental patterns and/or behavioral predispositions remains to be explored.