Wolf to Woof

Puppies are fast learners! But imagine training a WOLF PUP to sit! 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science. 

Dogs started out with a wild streak, as wolves. But for fourteen thousand years, they’ve been our faithful companions. 

Hannah Salomons and colleagues at Duke University wondered – HOW did our FUR-ends learn to cooperate with humans? Was it instinct or human training?  

To find out, the researchers played with… puppies! Around forty each from both domesticated dogs and gray wolves. All pups were exposed to full-time human interaction and participated in typical pet activities. Think: finding hidden treats or opening sealed food containers. Adorable!

And? Dog puppies were THIRTY times more likely to approach unfamiliar people. Wolves were twenty percent LESS likely to seek help with finding a treat. Domestic dogs made more eye contact and were better at reading human gestures.

Domestication upgraded these predators to man’s best friend! 

So, next time your puppy chews your furniture, just be thankful it’s a WOOF– not a WOLF!! 

Reference: Salomons, H., Smith, K. C. M., Callahan-Beckel, M., Callahan, M., Levy, K., Kennedy, B. S., Bray, E. E., Gnanadesikan, G. E., Horschler, D. J., Gruen, M., Tan, J., White, P., vonHoldt, B. M., MacLean, E. L., & Hare, B. (2021). Cooperative Communication with Humans Evolved to Emerge Early in Domestic Dogs. Current Biology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.06.051