Indexed on: 21 Mar '19Published on: 09 Mar '19Published in: Scientific Reports
Due to their convergent evolution, dogs have been suggested as a good model for the evolution of human social skills, such as tolerance and cooperativeness. However, recent studies have revealed that wolves (dogs' closest undomesticated relatives) are more tolerant and cooperative with conspecifics than dogs. It is still possible, though, that selection during domestication enhanced cooperative inclinations specifically towards humans, predicting better cooperation with humans in dogs than in wolves. We tested this hypothesis by comparing similarly human-raised wolves and dogs when cooperating with a familiar human partner in a string-pulling task. Both dogs and wolves were highly successful with the human partner, highlighting that dog-human cooperation could have evolved based on wolves' social skills. However, wolves and dogs differed in how they cooperated with their human partners with wolves being more likely to initiate movement leading the interaction with humans, whereas dogs were more likely to wait for the human to initiate action and then follow. Accordingly, we propose that during the course of domestication, after an initial reduction in fear of humans, dogs were selected for increased submissive inclinations (Deferential Behaviour Hypothesis) in order to minimize conflicts over resources, to ensure safe co-habitation and co-working in a way that humans lead and dogs follow.