There’s no denying that puppies are cute. We don’t even know what kind of puppy we’re looking at – as long as the dog is young and new, they’re irresistible to most people. So, why do puppies look so cute? Here’s what science tells us about why puppies are so adorable.
Puppies evoke a caregiving response
Puppies depend on our care and carry forward a “baby-like” quality that melts our hearts just as babies tend to. A puppy’s infantile characteristics trigger a caregiving response that requires us to act as protectors.
Characteristics of puppies that help assume this response include:
- Big round eyes
- Big cheeks
- Small chin
A puppy’s head is usually larger than it should be compared to its body, which humans find pleasing. Many philosophers, including Darwin and John Bowlby, thought that the feelings we get when we look at puppies or babies are part of our attachment system.
Puppies activate our reward system
Looking at puppies taps our brains on a neural level and activates our reward system. Simply laying eyes on a cute puppy can reward us with ambiguous emotions. Cute puppies also tend to invoke feelings of empathy and friendliness. As with babies, we want nothing more than to make sure the puppies we spend time with are safe and comfortable.
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Puppies are completely harmless
A cute puppy can’t do anything to hurt you, so it’s easy to “ooh” and “ahh” over a puppy when you feel completely safe around them. Not only does the puppy look adorable, but their innocent actions also add to the cuteness. A puppy just sitting there is cute enough by itself. However, when that puppy starts rolling onto their back or snuggling on your lap, your heart melts a little more.
Cuteness helps puppies survive
A small study was conducted to determine when a puppy is most attractive to humans. The study involved three different types of dogs: a Cane Corso, a Jack Russell terrier, and a White Shepherd. People in the study were shown pictures of different dogs at different stages of their lives while observing them. As expected, the humans showed a preference for the appearance of the dogs at around 8 weeks of age.
This age coincides exactly with the time when a puppy’s mother kicks them out of the den and expects them to start fending for themselves. Researchers believe that we humans instinctively know that puppies at this age need nourishment and care to survive. So, puppies being so cute may be nature’s way of making sure they can survive when people are around.
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Puppies can cause cute aggression in humans
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience determined how cute aggression affects us when we look at cute things like babies and puppies. Essentially, the study found that our minds create something called cuteness aversions and help counteract the overwhelming feeling of love and care we feel when we look at cute things. If we are too excited to take care of a cute puppy, the puppy may die.
Therefore, our cute aggression kicks in and keeps us on an even keel, so we’re not so overwhelmed by the cuteness, and we can focus more on the practical side of puppy care. It is important to note that cute aggression is not the same as wanting to harm what we think is cute. But it’s “That puppy is so cute, I could eat it!” which can lead to thoughts like.
It seems that there are many reasons why we are so obsessed with the cuteness of these animals! Thanks to our empathic ideals and nurturing instincts, we have the ability to take the love we feel when we see a cute puppy and turn that love into tangible interactions through petting, cuddling, feeding, and generally caring for the puppy.