Wolves, dogs, and cooperation

A study suggests that intraspecific cooperation, or cooperation among members of the same species, comes more naturally to wolves than to dogs. Previous studies suggest that domestication may have led dogs to evolve tolerance and cooperation. However, wolves display a greater variety of cooperative behaviors than dogs, including group hunting, pup rearing, and territorial defense. To compare cooperative traits of dogs and wolves, Sarah Marshall-Pescini and colleagues tested how similarly raised wolves and dogs performed at a cooperative rope-pulling test, in which two animals could access food only if both pulled on separate rope ends simultaneously. Regardless of whether the animals had prior training on the apparatus, the wolves outperformed the dogs, with dog pairs succeeding at two of 472 attempts and wolf pairs succeeding at 100 of 416 attempts. Cooperation in wolves was strongest among partners of similar rank and with close social bonds. Furthermore, wolves were more likely to simultaneously manipulate the apparatus than dogs, an action that appeared to help the wolves grasp the necessary coordinated behavior. The authors suggest that dogs may avoid simultaneously pulling on the ropes to avoid conflict over a coveted resource. Rather than supporting the hypothesis that dogs evolved greater cooperative inclinations than wolves, the study suggests that the different social behaviors of the two species influence their capacity for cooperation and communication, according to the authors.

Article #17-09027: "Importance of a species' socioecology: Wolves outperform dogs in a conspecific cooperation task," by Sarah Marshall-Pescini, Jonas F. L. Schwarz, Inga Kostelnik, Zsófia Virányi, and Friederike Range.