Enrol your puppy in a pioneering study — for science

Generation Pup – What is the project about?

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New puppy owners can enrol their four-legged friends into a pioneering scientific study which is looking to follow dogs of all breeds throughout their lives. Dubbed “Generation Pup”, the study — which is being run by the charity the Dogs Trust — will help researchers investigate how factors like diet, daily routines, exercise, environment and social interactions affect the behavioural development and well-being of dogs. The project is the canine equivalent of the pioneering “Children of the 90s” study, which followed thousands of kids born in 1991–92 the former county of Avon across their lives, and which has been used for studies on health, education and other social sciences.

Dogs Trust Director of Canine Behaviour & Research Dr Rachel Casey told Express.co.uk: “With this kind of prospective study, like Children of the 90s, it’s really powerful, because you collect data or information or samples, as the individuals develop.

“You can look at which individuals might develop a particular problem — and then you’ve got all that wealth of data and information from their background that helps you to understand that. It’s particularly powerful for diseases or problems that are complex and multifactorial.

“Our motivation for starting it was really to set up the infrastructure and a community of people that are gathering masses of data.

“That can help scientists now and scientists of the future to be able to really understand and answer the key welfare and health issues that are facing dogs.”

Dr Casey added: “This is a really innovative and exciting piece of science that will help us really make massive differences to the welfare of dogs in the future.

“So we really want as many puppies as possible signed up to it.”

In total, the Dogs Trust is aiming to recruit at least 10,000 puppies into the study by the end of 2023 — with more than 6,600 dogs and their owners already enrolled to date.

The six-thousandth recruit, who signed up in July, was “Maddie”, a then nine-week-old Golden Retriever.

Generation Pup – What is involved if I sign up?

To take part, owners need to be aged 16 or over and based in the UK or the Republic of Ireland.

Participating pups need to be 16 weeks or younger at the time of enrolment — or under 21 weeks if the dogs have been through quarantine.

Dog owners who volunteer to take part in the study will be asked to complete regular surveys — one every two months for the first year, and then every six months thereafter.

The team hope that the increased number of surveys in the first year of the study will help to shine a light on behavioural issues, which tend to be a bigger issue in younger and adolescent dogs.

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Participants also have the option of getting more involved by volunteering to send in physical samples — of their dog’s hair, urine and faecal matter, and cheek swabs — and asking their vet to share their pet’s medical records with the study for analysis.

One particular focus at the moment, Dr Casey said, is fireworks, with owners asked to diary how their pets respond to the loud noises which animals can find upsetting.

In fact, even though the study is very much in its early stages, Generation Pup has already yielded 12 research papers on topics from puppy acquisition and daily walking habits to neutering practices and introducing puppies to existing household cats.

More information on the project — and enrolling details — can be found on the Generation Pup website.

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