HAVE you ever wondered why some dogs react to fireworks and some don’t? Or why some dogs respond more strongly to being separated from their owners than others? These and many other questions are being explored in a new study by Dogs Trust.

The dog welfare charity is calling on all new puppy owners in Dorset to sign up to its landmark Generation Pup study to help it learn more about our four-legged friends and improve dog welfare for future generations. The study is tracking puppies through to adulthood to learn how their early experiences and environment affect the development of health and behaviour issues in later years. Participants will also be able to keep a record of their dog’s journey.

Dr Rachel Casey, Dogs Trust director of canine behaviour and research, said: “Generation Pup is the first study of this nature and breadth, enabling us to gain multiple new insights and understanding about our canine companions. We are tracking each puppy’s early experiences – from the age they joined the family and their first encounters, such as travelling in a car and meeting other dogs, to how they respond to new things they come across, what they eat, how far they walk, and potentially even whether characteristics such as being left or right ‘pawed’ influence behaviour.

“We are looking at a whole range of different health and behavioural conditions as puppies grow into adulthood right through to old age. And by collecting lots of information about each pup’s early experiences, we can understand to what extent these influence what happens later in life. Generation Pup includes all breeds of puppies from anywhere in the UK – our only requirement is that they’re registered on the project before they are 16 weeks old.”

Dogs Trust has already learned that a quarter of dogs join their new families before they are eight weeks old and that owners are more likely to ask for help from vets if their dog is insured, and even then, only if a problem persists, instead of having regular health checks irrespective of any warning signs.

The study will allow for further analysis of these factors and potentially help dog owners learn how to prevent problem behaviours and issues. From this summer new recruits will also all receive an annual personalised report tracking their dog’s behaviour and development.

Dr Casey said: “Learning when and how dogs are being introduced to certain sights, sounds, smells and situations, and more importantly how they react, gives us incredible insights into factors that influence both behaviour and health as dogs get older. This means we can identify new approaches to prevent problems which impact on dog welfare, as well as inform our work rehoming dogs and in helping owners train their dogs through our Dog School classes.”