The neurohypophyseal peptide hormone arginine-vasopressin functions as a neuropeptide in several brain areas in addition to its role as a posterior pituitary hormone. Several studies indicate that arginine-vasopressin and arginine-vasopressin receptors appear early in the infant rat brain. To determine if arginine-vasopressin receptors in the infant were responsive to exogenous peptides, we compared the behavioral effects of central or peripheral administration of arginine-vasopressin, arginine vasotocin, the oxytocin precursor oxytocin-Gly-Lys-Arg, and arginine-vasopressin receptor antagonists in socially isolated rat pups. Central administration of arginine-vasopressin decreased the number of rat pup ultrasonic vocalizations, reduced locomotor activity and decreased the latency to express a response to negative geotaxis. Temperature was also reduced at all doses tested. Co-administration of arginine-vasopressin and receptor antagonists suggested that changes in vocal behavior were mediated by the V1 receptor subtype. Changes in core temperature appeared to be mediated by a V2 receptor subtype. Peripheral arginine-vasopressin administration increased calling and decreased core body temperature. Neither effect was blocked by central receptor antagonist administration. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that arginine-vasopressin receptors in the infant rat brain are functional.