How WOLVES can co-operate with humans just like dogs: Ferocious canines are as capable of following handler’s commands – but they show more initiative than domesticated pets
- Behaviours that make a dog cooperative is due to their wild and ‘wolf-like’ nature
- Study used dogs and wolves both bred under human socialisation conditions
- Wolves were more likely to initiate cooperation with humans and lead tasks
- Dogs were more likely to wait for humans to make the first move and then follow
Wolves reared by humans can learn to cooperate with their handlers just as well as domesticated dogs, a new study has found.
Wild wolves work together to hunt, rear their offspring and defend their territory, traits which have been passed down to modern dogs – their closest relatives.
Experts tested the extent to which dogs and grey wolves collaborate with humans in order to solve a range of tasks.
They found that both dogs and wolves cooperate intensively and equally successfully, but wolves show more initiative where dogs follow a human’s lead.
Scroll down for video
Wolves are dogs’ closest undomesticated relative but have a more aggressive image due to their ‘wild’ nature. But scientists have shown that the theory dogs cooperate better with humans than wolves because of domestication may be nothing but a myth
The experiment, conducted at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, looked at how wolves and dogs cooperated with humans to solve specific tests.
The study tested 15 young grey wolves, aged from two to eight years old, and 12 mixed-breed dogs, from two to seven years old, at the Wolf Science Center in Austria.
All the animals in the study had been raised in similar conditions and had been exposed to humans early in their lives.
In a written statement Dr Friederike Range, who led the study, said: ‘The detailed analysis of the cooperative interactions revealed interesting differences between wolves and dogs.
‘It shows that, while wolves tend to initiate behaviour and take the lead, dogs are more likely to wait and see what the human partner does and follow that behaviour’.
The experiment, from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, looked at how wolves and dogs cooperated with humans in solving specific tests. The results showed that while both species cooperated with humans, wolves were more ‘proactive’ at initiating cooperative
The results showed that while both dogs and wolves cooperate with humans, wolves were more ‘proactive’ at initiating cooperation than dogs.
The wolves were more likely to initiate movement with humans and ‘lead’ the cooperation, while dogs would wait for humans to initiate and follow with movements as a result.
The researchers suggest that the ‘timidness’ they observed in dogs may have been due to the more submissive personalities being bred into modern species.
Dogs and wolves diverged between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago years ago, when canines were first thought to have been domesticated.
The full findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
HOW DID DOGS BECOME DOMESTICATED?
A genetic analysis of the world’s oldest known dog remains revealed that dogs were domesticated in a single event by humans living in Eurasia, around 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.
Dr Krishna Veeramah, an assistant professor in evolution at Stony Brook University, told MailOnline: ‘The process of dog domestication would have been a very complex process, involving a number of generations where signature dog traits evolved gradually.
‘The current hypothesis is that the domestication of dogs likely arose passively, with a population of wolves somewhere in the world living on the outskirts of hunter-gatherer camps feeding off refuse created by the humans.
‘Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this, and while the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic [mutually beneficial] relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.’