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If the sight of a cute puppy makes your heart melt and can cause you to lose hours scrolling through pics of dogs in costumes on the internet, you’re certainly not alone. According to a new study, it turns out there’s actually a specific age at which dogs are most attractive to us humans.
The study, published in this May’s Anthrozoös: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals, revealed that 8 weeks old is the age when people find pups most attractive. Even more interesting, that’s the same time when a mother dog leaves her puppies to fend for themselves, and when they're most vulnerable.
Lead researcher Clive Wynne, professor of psychology and director of Arizona State University's Canine Science Collaboratory, thought there might be a link between puppies' weaning age and their level of attractiveness to humans. So he designed an experiment to test this hypothesis.
"It came out exactly as I'd hoped it would — that there is indeed an optimal age of maximum cuteness, and that age does line up pretty closely with the age at which mothers wean their pups," Wynne said in a press release.
“This could be a signal coming through to us of how dogs have evolved to rely on human care.”
For the study, the researchers recruited 51 lucky participants to view photos of dogs at different ages and to rate their attractiveness. Three distinctive-looking breeds were ranked: Jack Russell terriers, cane corsos and white shepherds. The photos ranged from a pup’s first few weeks of life to young adulthood.
"The eight-week point is just the point where the hook is biggest, the ability of the animal to grab our interest is strongest," Wynne said. "But having grabbed our interest, we continue to love them all their lives."
So while pet owners get to enjoy cute puppies, it’s a win for the doggies, too, that just when they’re being kicked out of the den, they start looking very attractive to potential human moms and dads. Lucky dogs, indeed!