Wolves are more tolerant

Domestication gave dogs a stronger sense of hierarchy

Dog and Wolf - who is more tolerant of each other? © Walter Vorbeck
Read out

Obediently bred: Dogs like to be considered the more tolerant, more harmless relatives of wolves. But that is deceptive. Instead, the wolves are more tolerant of each other, while dogs are more authoritarian and cough more in front of senior conspecifics. The reason is probably the domestication: Our ancestors chose specifically obedient animals for breeding.

For about 15, 000 years, the dog is the best friend of man. The transition from a wild wolf to a domestic dog has changed the social behavior of the animals: domestic dogs are less aggressive and more focused on humans - that's what the selection has done. But has this also affected the behavior of the animals?

In fact, studies have shown that wolves are better at assessing their conspecifics differently than dogs and signals from humans and dogs. Friederike Range and Zsófia Virányi from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna have now investigated whether dogs are really more tolerant and less aggressive than wolves.

Dogs are more conscious

For their study, the researchers performed a series of behavioral tests on eight half-breed dogs and nine wolves. All animals were raised under the same conditions by humans, and then kept in separate packs. In the experiment, two pack members each - a higher-ranking and lower-ranking animal - were fed together: either a bowl of raw meat or a large bone.

High-ranking wolves tolerate the threatening behavior of their low-ranking peers. © Walter Vorbeck

Surprisingly, neither wolves nor dogs behaved particularly aggressively and limited themselves in the extreme case to threatening behavior. In addition, the wolves were less authoritarian than their domesticated relatives, as the researchers report: lower-tier animals defended the food more often against their pack leaders. The lower-ranked dogs, on the other hand, were more likely to recognize the dominance of the higher-ranking animal, and were reserved. display

Obedient partner

"Sensitivity to a higher rank seems to be more pronounced in dogs than in W lfen, " says lead author Range. This is shown by the fact that even the lower ranked animals can protest at the W lfen and the dominant animals tolerate it. The reason for this difference is seen by the researchers in the Domestikation by the People:

"When humans domesticated the wolf, they probably selected as obedient animals, " suspects her colleague Vir nyi. Because in the dog-human relationship it is not about equal rights. Unlike wolves, dogs have the ability to accept the leadership of others. This makes the dog an obedient partner of humans.

Dogs and wolves in common, on the other hand, rarely behaved aggressively among themselves. Range concludes that wolves already have a high degree of tolerance towards their conspecifics. This was shown by the fact that high-ranking wolves tolerate the threatening behavior of their lower-ranking peers in the feeding experiment. This tolerance enables Wolf Wolf cooperation. It is precisely this ability of the wolves that is probably the basis of the human-dog relationship. (Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 2015; doi: 10.1098 / rspb.2015.0220

(Veterinary Medical University Vienna, 22.04.2015 - RPA)