Sampling Maternal Care Behaviour in Domestic Dogs: What’s the Best Approach?

Scientific Journal Articles

Our understanding of the frequency and duration of maternal care behaviours in the domestic dog during the first two postnatal weeks is limited, largely due to the inconsistencies in the sampling methodologies that have been employed. In order to develop a more concise picture of maternal care behaviour during this period, and to help establish the sampling method that represents these behaviours best, we compared a variety of time sampling methods Six litters were continuously observed for a total of 96 h over postnatal days 3, 6, 9 and 12 (24 h per day). Frequent (dam presence, nursing duration, contact duration) and infrequent maternal behaviours (anogenital licking duration and frequency) were coded using five different time sampling methods that included: 12-h night (1800–0600 h), 12-h day (0600–1800 h), one hour period during the night (1800–0600 h), one hour period during the day (0600–1800 h) and a one hour period anytime. Each of the one hour time sampling method consisted of four randomly chosen 15-min periods. Two random sets of four 15-min period were also analysed to ensure reliability. We then determined which of the time sampling methods averaged over the three 24-h periods best represented the frequency and duration of behaviours. As might be expected, frequently occurring behaviours were adequately represented by short (one h) sampling periods, however this was not the case with the infrequent behaviour. Thus, we argue that the time sampling methodology employed must match the behaviour of interest. This caution applies to maternal behaviour in altricial species, such as canids, as well as all systematic behavioural observations utilising time sampling methodology.

Czerwinski, V. H., Smith, B. P., Hynd, P. I., & Hazel, S. J. (2017). Sampling maternal care behaviour in domestic dogs: What’s the best approach? Behavioural Processes, 140, 41–46.



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Topic(s): Behavior, Breeder Resource, Maternal Care, Puppy Development