Domestication diminished dogs` ability to learn

Last Updated: Monday, February 3, 2014 - 18:18

London: Domestication may have diminished dogs` ability to learn from each other, unlike wolves, a new study suggests.

The study found that wolves are considerably better than dogs at learning from each other.

Scientists from the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have undertaken experiments that suggest that wolves observe one another more closely than dogs and so are better at learning from one another.

During the process of domestication, dogs have become able to accept humans as social partners and thus have adapted their social skills to include interactions with them, concomitantly losing the ability to learn by watching other dogs, researchers said.
The researchers think that it is likely that the dog-human cooperation originated from cooperation between wolves.

The scientists believe that cooperation among wolves is the basis of the understanding between dogs and humans.

Wolves were domesticated more than 15,000 years ago and it is widely assumed that the ability of domestic dogs to form close relationships with humans stems from changes during the domestication process.

But the effects of domestication on the interactions between the animals have not received much attention.

Range and Viranyi found that wolves are considerably better than dogs at opening a container, providing they have previously watched another animal do so.

Their study involved 14 wolves and 15 mongrel dogs, all about six months old, hand-reared and kept in packs.
Each animal was allowed to observe one of two situations in which a trained dog opened a wooden box, either with its mouth or with its paw, to gain access to a food reward.

Surprisingly, all of the wolves managed to open the box after watching a dog solve the puzzle, while only four of the dogs managed to do so.

Wolves more frequently opened the box using the method they had observed, whereas the dogs appeared to choose randomly whether to use their mouth or their paw.

The dogs proved no more adept at opening the box than they were at a younger age. Another possible explanation for the wolves` apparent superiority at learning is that wolves might simply be better than dogs at solving such problems.

The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

PTI

First Published: Monday, February 3, 2014 - 18:18

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