Academic Articles

 
How Well Do Wolves and Dogs Understand People
Author: Clive D. L. Wynne, PhD. University of Florida – 2009(Two Pages)
Download PDF
Photo Source: Doug Smith Wolves and Trophic Cascades: What is all the controversy about?
Author: Doug Smith, Yellowstone wolf project, 2014
Visit page
M.A.R. Udell, N.R. Dorey, C.D.L. Wynne, What did domestication do to dogs? Biological Reviews, 85, 327-345 (2010).
Abstract: Over the last two decades increasing evidence for an acute sensitivity to human gestures and attentional states in domestic dogs has led to a burgeoning of research into the social cognition of this highly familiar yet previously under-studied animal. Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) have been shown to be more successful than their closest relative (and wild progenitor) the wolf, and than man’s closest relative, the chimpanzee, on tests of sensitivity to human social cues, such as following points to a container holding hidden food. The “Domestication Hypothesis” asserts that during domestication, dogs evolved an inherent sensitivity to human gestures that their non-domesticated counterparts do not share. According to this view, sensitivity to human cues is present in dogs at an early age and shows little evidence of acquisition during ontogeny. A closer look at the findings of research on canine domestication, socialization, and conditioning brings the assumptions of this hypothesis into question. We propose the Two-State Hypothesis, according to which the sensitivity of an individual animal to human actions depends on acceptance of humans as social companions and conditioning to follow human limbs. This offers a more parsimonious explanation for the domestic dog’s sensitivity to human gestures, without requiring the use of additional mechanisms. It is outlined how tests of this new hypothesis open directions for future study that offer promise of a deeper understanding of mankind’s oldest companion.
M.A.R. Udell , C.D.L. Wynne, Ontogeny and phylogeny: both are essential to human-sensitive behavior in the genus Canis. Animal Behavior, 79, e9-e14 (2010).
Abstract: Recent evidence suggests that phylogenetic constraints exerted on dogs by the process of domestication have altered the ability of dogs to represent the physical world and the displacement of objects. In this study, invisible (Experiment 1) and visible (Experiment 2) displacement problems were administered to determine whether domestic dogs’ and gray wolves’ cognitive capacities to infer the position of a hidden object differ. The results revealed that adult dogs and wolves performed similarly in searching for disappearing objects: Both species succeeded the visible displacement tasks but failed the invisible displacement problems. We conclude that physical cognition for finding hidden objects in domestic dogs and gray wolves is alike and unrelated to the process of domestication.
C. Muro, R. Escobedo, L. Spector, R. Coppinger , Hunting strategies emerge from simple rules in computational simulations. Behavioural Processes, 88, 192-197 (2011).
Abstract: Computational simulations are produced of multi-agent systems in which wolf agents chase prey agents. It is shown that two simple decentralized rules controlling the movement of each wolf are enough to reproduce the main features of the wolf-pack hunting behavior: tracking the prey, carrying out the pursuit, and encircling the prey until it stops moving. The rules are (1) move towards the prey until a minimum safe distance to the prey is reached, and (2) when close enough to the prey, move away from the other wolves are close to the safe distance to the prey. The hunting agents are autonomous, interchangeable, and indistinguishable; the only information each agent needs is the position of the other agents. Our results suggest that wolf-pack hunting is an emergent collective behavior which does not necessarily rely on effective communication between the individuals participating in the hunt, and that no hierarchy is needed in the group to achieve the task properly.
E.N. Feuerbacher, C.D.L. Wynne, Relative efficacy of human social interaction and food as reinforcers for domestic dogs and hand-reared wolves. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 97, 105-`129 (2012).
Abstract: Despite the intimate relationship dogs share with humans in Western society, relatively little is known about the variables that produce and maintain dog social behavior towards humans. One possibility is that human social interaction is itself a reinforcer for dog behavior. As an initial assessment of the variables that might maintain dog social behavior, we compared the relative efficacy of brief human social interaction to a small piece of food as a reinforcer for an arbitrary response (nose touch). Three populations of canids were investigated: shelter dogs, owned dogs, and hand-reared wolves. Across all three canid populations, brief social interaction was a relatively ineffective reinforcer compared to food for most canids, producing lower responding and longer latencies than food.
M.A.R. Udell, C.D.L. Wynne (2012), Human-socialized wolves follow diverse human gestures, and they may not be alone. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 25, 97-110 (2012).
Abstract: Many studies document the domestic dogs’ responsiveness to human gestures. Reports of success on human guided tasks have led to evolutionary hypotheses that set dogs’ skills apart from other species, including other canids, in terms of their social cognition and comprehension of human communicative stimuli. However, until recently the range of other species tested and the availability of studies using equivalent testing methods between different species and groups have been limited, making it difficult to interpret cross-species comparisons. Here we demonstrate that human-socialized wolves are not only capable of responding to points made with the arm and hand, but are sensitive to a wide range of human gestures when given the opportunity to utilize such gestures in an object-choice task. Claims that domestic dogs are unique in their ability to respond to diverse novel stimuli may e in part due to the absence of data for the same range of gestures in other species. In this paper, the first evidence that human-socialized coyotes have the capacity to utilize a human point to locate a target is also provided; further demonstrating that domestication is not a prerequisite for canid responsiveness to human actions, and that socialization and life experience are likely more important predictors of success.
F. Range, H. Moslinge, Z. Viranyi, Domestication has not affected the understanding of means-end connections in dogs. Animal Cognition, 15(4), 597-607 (2012).
Abstract: Recent studies have revealed that dogs often perform well in cognitive tasks in the social domain, but rather poorly in the physical domain. This dichotomy has led to the hypothesis that the domestication process might have enhanced the social cognitive skills of dogs (Hare et al. in Science 298:1634-1636, 2002; Miklósi et al. in Curr Biol 13:763-766,2003) but at the same time had a detrimental effect on their physical cognition (Frank in Z Tierpsychol 5:389-399, 1980). Despite the recent interest in dog cognition and especially the effects of domestication, the latter hypothesis has hardly been tested and we lack detailed knowledge of the physical understanding of wolves in comparison with dogs. Here, we set out to examine whether adult wolves and dogs rely on means-end connections using the string-pulling task, to test the prediction that wolves would perform better than dogs in such a task of physical cognition. We found that at the group level, dogs were more prone to commit the proximity error, while the wolves showed a stronger side bias. Neither wolves nor dogs showed an instantaneous understanding of means-end connection, but made different mistakes. Thus, the performance of the wolves and dogs in this string-pulling task did not confirm that domestication has affected the physical cognition of dogs. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.
S. Fiset, V. Plourde, Object permanence in domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and Gray Wolves (Canis lupus). Journal of Comparative Publishing , 25 (2012).
Abstract: Recent evidence suggests that phylogenetic constraints exerted on dogs by the process of domestication have altered the ability of dogs to represent the physical world and the displacement of objects. In this study, invisible (Experiment 1) and visible (Experiment 2) displacement problems were administered to determine whether domestic dogs’ and gray wolves’ cognitive capacities to infer the position of a hidden object differ. The results revealed that adult dogs and wolves performed similarly in searching for disappearing objects: Both species succeeded the visible displacement tasks but failed the invisible displacement problems. We conclude that physical cognition for finding hidden objects in domestic dogs and gray wolves is alike and unrelated to the process of domestication. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
K. Lord, M. Feinstein, B. Smith, R. Coppinger , Variation of reproductive traits of members of the genus Canis with special attention to the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Behavioural Processes, 92, 131-142 (2013)
Abstract: Differences in the reproductive strategies of “free-living” dogs are compared with their wild relatives in the genus Canis, of which the dog is a very recently evolved member. The members of this genus display a greater range of parental motor patterns than generally seen in other species of Carnivora including pair-bonding and extended parental care; parents regurgitate to offspring and provision them with food for months to as long as a year. But the domestic dog does not routinely display these genus-typical behaviors. While this has generally been assumed to be a result of direct human intervention, humans have little reproductive control over the vast majority of domestic dogs. The low frequency of display of genus-typical behaviors is analyzed, and it is postulated that the dog’s reproductive behaviors are an adaptation to permanent human settlement and the waste resources associated with it. Adaptation to this environment has decreased seasonality, increased the fecundity of unrestrained dogs, and reduced the need for prolonged parental care. The consequences of greater fecundity and reduced parental care are compared to the reproductive behavior of others species of the genus.
K. Lord, A comparison of the sensory development of wolves (Canis lupus lupus) and dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Ethology, 119, 110-120 (2013).
Abstract: Little is known about the development of the sensory systems of wolves. The timing of sensory development in wolves is usually extrapolated from studies on dogs, since they are members of the same species. However, early developmental differences between these two subspecies have already been identified. For example, wolves tend to approach and investigate objects in their environment two weeks before dogs. These changes in developmental timing may play an important role in the behavioral differences between adult wolves and dogs. The purpose of this study is to compare the development of the sensory systems in wolves and dogs.Responses of seen wolf pups and 43 dog pups to familiar and novel olfactory, auditory, and visual stimuli were tested weekly from two to seven weeks of age. Eleven wolf pups were also observed for orientation towards auditory and visual stimuli during two-hour sessions, five days a week, from two to eight weeks of age. These observations were supplemented by the daily records of caretakers.The results suggest that wolves and dogs both develop olfaction by two weeks, audition by four weeks, and vision by six weeks on average, despite the two-week shift in their ability to explore. This means that when wolves begin to explore at two weeks, they are blind and deaf, and must rely primarily on their sense of smell. Thus, there is a significant alteration of how these subspecies experience their environment during the critical period of socialization. These finds lead to an alternative explanation for the difference in dogs’ and wolves’ abilities to form interspecies social attachments, such as those with humans.