Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 03 December 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00868

Social learning from humans or conspecifics: differences and similarities between wolves and dogs

  • 1Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Medical University of Vienna and University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  • 2Wolf Science Center, Ernstbrunn, Austria

Most domestication hypotheses propose that dogs have been selected for enhanced communication and interactions with humans, including learning socially from human demonstrators. However, to what extent these skills are newly derived and to what extent they originate from wolf–wolf interactions is unclear. In order to test for the possible origins of dog social cognition, we need to compare the interactions of wolves and dogs with humans and with conspecifics. Here, we tested identically raised and kept juvenile wolves and dogs in a social learning task with human and conspecific demonstrators. Using a local enhancement task, we found that both wolves and dogs benefitted from a demonstration independent of the demonstrator species in comparison to a control, no demonstration condition. Interestingly, if the demonstrator only pretended to hide food at the target location, wolves and dogs reacted differently: while dogs differentiated between this without-food and with-food demonstration independent of the demonstrator species, wolves only did so in case of human demonstrators. We attribute this finding to wolves being more attentive toward behavioral details of the conspecific models than the dogs: although the demonstrator dogs were trained to execute the demonstration, they disliked the food reward, which might have decreased the interest of the wolves in finding the food reward. Overall, these results suggest that dogs but also wolves can use information provided by both human and conspecific demonstrators in a local enhancement task. Therefore we suggest that a more fine-scale analysis of dog and wolf social learning is needed to determine the effects of domestication.

Keywords: domestication, local enhancement, human demonstrator, conspecific demonstrator, dog, wolf

Citation: Range F and Virányi Z (2013) Social learning from humans or conspecifics: differences and similarities between wolves and dogs. Front. Psychol. 4:868. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00868

Received: 26 August 2013; Paper pending published: 27 September 2013;
Accepted: 31 October 2013; Published online: 03 December 2013.

Edited by:

Thomas Bugnyar, Universität Wien, Austria

Reviewed by:

Andrew C. Gallup, State University of New York College at Oneonta, USA
Katalin M. Gothard, The University of Arizona, USA

Copyright © 2013 Range and Virányi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Friederike Range, Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria e-mail: friederike.range@vetmeduni.ac.at

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