Dogs are man’s best friend and partner. The origins of this dog-human relationship were subject of a new study by behavioral scientists from the Messerli Research Institute at the Vetmeduni Vienna and the Wolf Science Center, both in Austria. The researches showed that the ancestors of dogs, the wolves, are at least as attentive to members of their species and to humans as dogs are. This social skill did not emerge during domestication, as has been suggested previously, but was already present in wolves. The researchers have given a summary of their results and presented their new theory in an online article published on January 15, 2015 in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Commonly accepted domestication hypotheses suggest that “dogs have become tolerant and attentive as a result of humans actively selecting for these skills during the domestication process in order to make dogs cooperative partners.” Dr. Friederike Range and Dr. Zsófia Virányi from the Unit of Comparative Cognition at the Messerli Research Institute question the validity of this view and have developed the alternative “Canine Cooperation Hypothesis”. This hypothesis states that because wolves are already tolerant, attentive, and cooperative, the relationship of wolves to their pack mates could have provided the basis for today’s human-dog relationship. An additional selection, at least for social attentiveness and tolerance, was not necessary during canine domestication. The researchers believe that wolves are not less socially attentive than dogs. Dogs however cooperate more easily with humans because they more readily accept people as social partners and more easily lose their fear of humans. To test their hypothesis, Dr. Range and Dr. Virányi examined the social attentiveness and tolerance of wolves and dogs within their packs and toward humans.
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