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CanCoop Report Summary

Project ID: 311870
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Austria

Mid-Term Report Summary - CANCOOP (Understanding the Proximate Mechanisms ofCanine Cooperation)

Beyond the fact socialization with humans is much easier achieved with dogs than wolves, we have only limited knowledge regarding the motivational and cognitive effects of domestication. Nevertheless, dog-human cooperation has been suggested to be facilitated by selection for increased tolerance, increased social attentiveness and cooperativness in dogs compared to wolves. To investigate the evolutionary origins of dog-human cooperation, we are raising and keeping dogs and wolves similarly at the Wolf Science Center. The animals are socialized with humans as well as with conspecifics and also participate in behaviour experiments both in intra- and interspecific contexts. So far, we have compared their tolerance and aggressiveness during food competition and found that dogs have a steeper dominance hierarchy and can be more easily inhibited by their dominant social partners (both human and conspecific). Also in two other tasks testing for inhibitory control in the presence of a dominant partner (human), we found that dogs have better self-control than wolves. Moreover, using two different social learning tasks, we could show that wolves were at least as attentive as dogs to their social partners and their actions. Regarding their cooperativeness, we have only recently started to test wolves and dogs in a manipulative task, but first results suggest that wolves may be better at cooperating at least with conspecifics than wolves. Based on these findings and their social ecology, we suggest - in contrast to most of the recent domestication hypotheses - that wolves are characterised with high tolerance, attentiveness and cooperativeness, which might have been a good basis for the evolution of dog-human cooperation (canine cooperation hypothesis).

If published, Zsófia Virányi should be mentioned as a co-author since she was heavily involved in this work summarized here.

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