Why Are Puppies So Cute? Science Explains

Prepare to squeal.

Have you ever looked at a dog so mind-numbingly adorable you can’t resist the urge to snuggle it? A new study confirms that while all dogs are indubitably good, there’s a specific timeframe in which our dodo brains perceive dogs to be The Cutest.

In the paper, published on May 3 in Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals, a team of researchers asked 51 lucky volunteers to help them better understand the bond between humans and dogs, the oldest people-to-animal friendship in history. A key part of doing this, the scientists felt, was determining the period of time in which a dog is “most attractive” to humans.

The team asked participants to rank various dogs’ cuteness based on a series of black-and-white photos. Three dog breeds were selected for testing: Jack Russell terriers, cane corsos, and white shepherds, all pictured at different ages.

Researchers found that people perceive dogs to be cutest at around eight weeks, which the study’s lead author Clive Wynne says he expected.

“Around seven or eight weeks of age, just as their mother is getting sick of them and is going to kick them out of the den and they’re going to have to make their own way in life, at that age, that is exactly when they are most attractive to human beings,” Wynne, director of Arizona State University’s Canine Science Collaboratory, explains in a statement.

“This could be a signal coming through to us of how dogs have evolved to rely on human care … being able to connect with us, to find an emotional hook with us is what actually makes their lives possible.”

Golden retriever Zuke as a puppy

Jourdan Brown

It’s worth pointing out the various limitations of this study: 51 is a very small sample size, and a selection of three dog breeds doesn’t accurately portray the vast array of puppers. Still, this is a solid stepping stone for scientists better ascertain the companionship between humans and dogs in future studies. Wynne says that scientifically and personally, dogs and their owners have a special relationship.

“[The study] doesn’t mean to say that we stop loving our dogs past [eight weeks],” he says. “The eight-week point is just the point where the hook is biggest, the ability of the animal to grab our interest is strongest. But, having grabbed our interest, we continue to love them all their lives.”

Several dog owners confirmed to Inverse that their dogs are indeed perfect and lovable at any age.

“My Weimaraner’s name is Todd (as in, “why is the carpet all wet, TODD?!”) and the Blue Tick Coon Hound’s name is Hansel (Hansel, so hot right now. Hansel),” Seth Friedrich from Pekin, Illinois says. “There is just something about the hound breeds faces that makes you go “oh. my. GAWD.” Maybe it’s the big eyes, maybe it’s the wrinkles, maybe it’s the general floppy-ness….Whatever it is, the combination of confusion, concern, and derpy-ness adds up to a very, very cute puppy.”

Purse Blog managing editor Amanda Mull explains her chihuahua puppy, Midge, is supremely charming — and knows it.

“When she wants me to scratch her head, she makes a face that is so purposefully innocent and dumb that it’s obviously an attempt at manipulation, and it works,” Mull tells Inverse. “She makes her eyes real big, she lowers her ears, sometimes she sticks her tongue out a tiny bit. Works every time.”

Even if we think dogs are especially cute as babies, it’s a scientific, inarguable fact that all dogs are perfect at any age — it’s our job to remind them that every day.

Bonus pups!

Luna, Eliza, Cila, and Ernesto

Colin Weber, Chelsea Szmania, Catie Keck, Dave Nemetz

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