Pluijmakers, J. J. T. M., Appleby, D. L., Bradshaw, J. W. S. 2010. Exposure to video images between 3 and 5 weeks of age decreases neophobia in domestic dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 126(1-2), 51-58.
Restricted experience in early life is known to contribute to long-lasting predispositions to fear and anxiety in mammals. It is commonplace for young domestic dogs not to experience many features of the environment in which they will spend their adult lives until after 8 weeks of age: simulations of that environment presented before 8 weeks might therefore reduce subsequent fear and anxiety. A series of experiments tested whether fearful and exploratory behaviour up to 8 weeks of age is reduced by exposure to audiovisual playback between 3 and 5 weeks of age. First, it was demonstrated that puppies between 3 and 5 weeks of age do respond to video images. Second, the reactions of puppies, exposed to audiovisual playbacks for 30 min per day for 14 days between 3 and 5 weeks old, to test objects in both familiar and unfamiliar environments, were compared with those of control, unexposed puppies; the unexposed puppies visited most of the objects significantly more frequently than did the exposed puppies. Third, another sample of puppies given the same treatments was tested at 7-8 weeks of age; the unexposed puppies were significantly more fearful than the exposed, and also tended to visit the objects more frequently. Audiovisual simulations therefore appear to be worthy of further investigation as a way of enhancing coping strategies in dogs.