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What's your favorite thing about puppies? Is it their cute yawns, wiggly bottoms or the sweet way they lick your nose? Or maybe it's those doleful eyes that stare into yours as if they know what you are thinking.

Whatever it is, rest assured that puppies are primed to communicate with you soon after their birth, says Emily Bray, a post-doctoral research associate at the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona's School of Anthropology.

"Puppies will look at and return a person's social gaze and successfully use information given by that person in a social context from a very young age, all prior to any extensive experience with people," Bray said.

Bray has been studying guide dog development for the last decade in collaboration with Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that provides dogs at no charge to adults, children and veterans with physical or cognitive disabilities.
The pool of service dogs is an excellent one for research because they often have known pedigrees going back multiple generations and are raised and trained in very similar ways. That gives researchers more options to determine how much of a dog's behavior is due to genetics versus environment or training.

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