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Wolves More Tolerant Than Dogs

23 April 2015

AUSTRIA - Dogs are usually seen as more tolerant and less aggressive compared to their wolf ancestors, but new research from Vetmeduni Vienna and the Wolf Science Center questions this image.

The recent study showed that wolves interact with fellow pack members in an even more tolerant way than dogs, suggesting that dogs have a steeper dominance hierarchy than wolves.

The dogs and wolves tested in the study were hand-raised in the Wolf Science Center in Lower Austria, and kept in separated packs of nine wolves and eight mongrel dogs.

To test how tolerant wolves and dogs were towards their pack members, pairs consisting of a high-ranked and a low-ranked animal were fed together. They were fed either a bowl of raw meat or a large bone.

While low-ranked wolves often defended their food against the high-ranked partner, this was different in dogs. Low-ranked dogs held back and accepted the threats of the dominant dog.

Overall, however, neither wolves nor dogs showed a lot of aggressive behaviour. If any, they showed threat signs.

“Wolves seem to be more tolerant towards conspecifics than dogs that seem to be more sensitive to the dominance hierarchy,” explained the study lead author Friederike Range.

“This was shown by the fact that also low-ranked wolves can challenge their higher-ranked partners and the dominant animals tolerate it, while in dogs aggression was a privilege of the higher-ranked partners.”

The study offers some insight into how humans may have domesticated wolves.

“When humans domesticated wolves, they probably chose the submissive animals that were ready to adjust," said co-author Zsófia Virányi.

Dog-human interactions are more about living together without conflicts, not about equality. Their ability to respect and follow others made dogs the ideal partners of humans.

The results will be published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Further Reading

You can view the full report and author list by clicking here.

ThePetSite News Desk

Top image via Shutterstock

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