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Curr Biol. 2003 Apr 29;13(9):763-6.

A simple reason for a big difference: wolves do not look back at humans, but dogs do.

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  • 1Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Pázmány P. 1c, 1117, Hungary. miklosa@ludens.elte.hu

Abstract

The present investigations were undertaken to compare interspecific communicative abilities of dogs and wolves, which were socialized to humans at comparable levels. The first study demonstrated that socialized wolves were able to locate the place of hidden food indicated by the touching and, to some extent, pointing cues provided by the familiar human experimenter, but their performance remained inferior to that of dogs. In the second study, we have found that, after undergoing training to solve a simple manipulation task, dogs that are faced with an insoluble version of the same problem look/gaze at the human, while socialized wolves do not. Based on these observations, we suggest that the key difference between dog and wolf behavior is the dogs' ability to look at the human's face. Since looking behavior has an important function in initializing and maintaining communicative interaction in human communication systems, we suppose that by positive feedback processes (both evolutionary and ontogenetically) the readiness of dogs to look at the human face has lead to complex forms of dog-human communication that cannot be achieved in wolves even after extended socialization.

PMID:
12725735
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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