Domestication Might Have Made Dogs Worse Than Wolves At Cooperating, Not Better


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockOct 17 2017, 18:29 UTC

These are wolves working at a cooperative rope-pulling test. Rooobert Bayer (Wolf Science Center, Ernstbrunn, Austria).

When it comes to dogs, the general understanding is that domestication made them more tolerant and cooperative. But it appears that it might actually have made them worse at cooperating with other dogs. New research comparing dog and wolf behaviors showed that the wild canines are far better at working together than their domestic counterparts.

The study, published in Proceeding of the National Academy of Science, looked at how good wolves and dogs were at a cooperative rope-pulling test. The task required two individual to simultaneously pull two ropes, which brought a tray closer to them and allowed them to access food. Dog pairs were only successful twice out of 472 attempts while the wolf duos managed to cooperate successfully in 100 out 416 attempts.


The cooperation in wolves was stronger when the individuals in the pair were of similar rank or with close social bonds. The wolves appeared to also play with the test most more, which might provide them with the necessary information to grasp how the machinery works. Dogs, on the other hand, the authors suggested, might be trying to avoid a conflict with their partner and that might be why they failed more often.  

The team believes that this finding shows that social behavior is crucial for successful cooperation among other members of the same species. Wolves rely heavily on cooperation for hunting, raising pups, and for defending the territory. This is why they cooperate better with each other than dogs do.

"We still have very much this idea of the big, bad wolf and the cuddly pooch on your sofa," lead author Dr Sarah Marshall-Pescini, from the Wolf Science Center in Vienna, told BBC News. "But, I think the simplest message is that the story is not quite as clear as that."


This study is just another piece of the complex puzzle that is the domestication of dogs. The date dogs were first domesticated ranges from 40,000 to 20,000 years and we possibly even domesticated them twice. Other hotly debated areas are where they were first domesticated, how long it took, and how the domestication process came to be.

There are many questions regarding how dogs became humanity’s best friends and studies like this help break down what might have made us fall in love with our four-legged companions.

[H/T: BBC News]

  • tag
  • wolf,

  • dogs,

  • wolves,

  • dog,

  • good boy