Behaviour 2019
Do bitches recognize their puppies’ whines ?
Mathilde Massenet1, Camille Friedrich 1, Karine Reynaud2, 3, Nicolas Mathevon1, David Reby1. 1Equipe Neuro-Ethologie Sensorielle, ENES/Neuro-PSI CNRS UMR 9197, University of Lyon/Saint-Etienne, Saint-Etienne, , France; 2Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportement, INRA 85, CNRS 7247, Centre INRA Val de Loire, Nouzilly, , France; 3Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d’Alfort, EnvA, Maison Alfort, , France

Litter or individual vocal recognition is common in mammalian parental care. In dogs, puppies produce whines shortly after birth. Whether these calls are characterised by litter-specific pitch cues and whether mothers use these cues to recognise their puppies and adjust their maternal care response, remains to be investigated. To test these hypotheses, we first analysed whines produced by 51 Beagle puppies from 9 litters and found that the F0 (vocal fold vibration rate) range of whines was significantly different between litters. Then, to test whether mothers actually use whine F0 range to identify puppies as theirs, we played back familiar or unfamiliar whines to 8 bitches, with a manipulated F0 which falls within or outside of their litter range. We found that bitches provided more care in response to familiar than to unfamiliar whines, regardless of F0 manipulation. This suggests that mothers identify their own puppies based on other vocal parameters (individual- or litter-related), rather than based on litter-specific F0 range. Further investigations are thus required to unravel the extent and mechanisms of puppy vocal recognition by bitches.