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Wolves' ancient social skills behind modern day dog-human cooperation

A new study of the origins of the dog-human relationship has suggested that it stems from wolf behavior.

Washington: A new study of the origins of the dog-human relationship has suggested that it stems from wolf behavior.

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, but the researchers at the Messerli Research Institute question the validity of this view and have developed the "Canine Cooperation Hypothesis."

Their hypothesis states that since wolves already are 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 and to test their hypothesis, researcher Friederike Range and Zsofia Viranyi examined the social attentiveness and tolerance of wolves and dogs within their packs and toward humans.

Various behavioural tests showed that wolves and dogs have quite similar social skills and among other things, the researchers tested how well wolves and dogs can find food that has been hidden by a conspecific or by a human. Both wolves and dogs used information provided by a human to find the hidden food.

Overall, the tests showed that wolves are very attentive to humans and to each other and hypotheses which claim that wolves have limited social skills in this respect in comparison to dogs are therefore incorrect, Range points out.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.