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Puppy participants: P.E.I. researchers recruiting dogs for behaviour study

Researchers with the University of Prince Edward Island are working to learn more about the behavioural development of puppies.

Quincy is one of the participants in the study. He’s a friendly, curious, seven-month-old border collie pup.

Quincy visits with researchers at the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) and does a series of tests, which look a bit like obedience training, but are designed to test resilience, focus, and openness.

The study aims to build a model of normal puppy development and create tools to help vets identify behavioral issues early.

“How puppies’ brains develop and how it affects their behavior, so brain development in puppies is not something that’s being widely studied,” said researcher Karen Overall.

In their first year, Overall says a tenth of pups are at risk of being surrendered because of behavioral problems.

“Between one and three years of age, the reason that most young dogs, worldwide, are euthanatized or relinquished are because of behaviour problems,” she said.

Three quarters of dogs with behavioural issues can be corrected with early intervention and they’ve already started with some of the puppies in the study, said Overall.

As for Quincy, he hasn’t had any big problems so far.

“Affirming, kinda, what I thought about him already,” said owner Sharon Anderson.

“I thought he was a pretty special puppy.”

This isn’t Anderson's first dog, but it is her first puppy. She said access to the behavioural expertise of the researchers is a huge benefit in raising a young dog.

“It’s nice to have that as a backup. It’s just grand,” said Anderson.

“I’ve got my instincts, but you can’t compare instincts to professional knowledge.”

The first cohort started in June, now researchers are looking for a second consisting of about 20 puppies.

Eligible participants do not have to live on Prince Edward Island, but they will need to bring their pup to the Island four times over the next year, at roughly three, six, nine and 12 months.

Interested pet owners can contact Overall directly by email

Overall says AVC has the only Canadian English language program that deals with behavioral animal medicine. Top Stories

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