We, humans, so often take credit for teaching dogs how to work together and be cooperative. But research has revealed a less favorable (to humans) truth as to dogs working together…and we’re to blame!
In experiments led by Sarah Marshall-Pescini from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she has revealed that wolves are far better at cooperating together than our domesticated dogs.
Wolves are better than dogs
Sarah shows that dogs are not nearly as good at intra-species cooperation as wolves. The truth is that domestication has weakened cooperative abilities amongst dogs.
When you think about, this observation makes a lot of sense. Living out in the wild, wolves need each other to survive. These highly social animals hunt together in packs, raise pups, and band together for territorial defense. Among dogs, this evolutionary pressure for intra-species cooperation has ground to a halt, and it’s starting to show. Sure, dogs are good at cooperating with humans, but at a dog-on-dog level, they’re not so good.
For the study, Marshall-Pescini sought to compare the cooperative abilities of wolves and dogs who were raised similarly at the Wolf Science Center in Vienna. At this facility, wolves and dogs live in packs, where wolves hang out with other wolves and dogs with dogs. So these dogs aren’t your run-of-the-mill house pets—they’ve been socialized in a way that very closely approximates their ancient lifestyle (modern wolves and dogs diverged from a common ancestor about 15,000 years ago).
However, Kathryn Lord, a wolf expert from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and the Broad Institute in Cambridge added some thoughts:
One of the theories was the dogs were deliberately trying to avoid resource conflict amongst themselves, which is why they failed so consistently at the task. But as Lord points out, that theory will need to be borne out in future work.
“This study highlights that the changes that occur due to domestication are not as simple as often assumed, dogs are better at forming social bonds with humans, but as this study highlights that is not the same thing as being better at cooperating,” said Lord. “As the authors mention, wolves’ natural ecological niche involves a lot more complex cooperative behavior than dogs.’
Read more at the source below and just what the Atlantic has to say about the study
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