The Intelligence of Wolves
(includes Wolves, Coyotes, Foxes, Dogs and Hyenas)
Wolves are better problem solvers than Dogs.
Probably because Dogs have been bred
to become dependent on humans.
Humans have 5 million olfactory receptors, dogs have 220 million, 44 times more than humans. Dogs literally "see" the world through their nose.
11-25-21 Feeding pet dogs just once a day might keep them healthier as they age
Dogs fed once a day are less likely to be diagnosed with age-related conditions than dogs fed more often, according to an analysis of surveys completed by 24,000 owners of pet dogs. For now, dog owners should stick with their current regime, says Matt Kaeberlein at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Based on this study, we are not recommending that people make a change in the way they are feeding their dogs.” In 2019, Kaeberlein helped establish the Dog Aging Project to study the genetic and environmental causes of ageing in dogs and other animals, including people. Any dog owner in the US can take part by filling in a survey once a year. There is some evidence that intermittent fasting can slow ageing in some animals, such as mice. Kaeberlein analysed the project data to see if dogs fed once a day were more or less likely to be diagnosed with various categories of age-related conditions, from cancers to the canine equivalent of dementia, than those fed more often. In most cases, dogs fed once per day were significantly less likely to have had such a diagnosis. “In my view, it’s pretty compelling correlative evidence,” says Kaeberlein. However, the study hasn’t established causation, he says. The total amount that a dog eats, rather than how often it eats, might explain the correlation. Dogs fed twice a day or more might be more likely to be obese, for instance. The project team plans to ask owners how much their dogs eat and whether they are obese. But measuring caloric intake accurately is hard to do in surveys, says Kaeberlein. Ideally, the team would like to carry out a trial involving switching some dogs to once-a-day-feeding to see if it affects their health. “The strength of the study is that numbers are large and the statistical methods are sound,” says Alex German at the University of Liverpool in the UK. But it also has many weaknesses, he says, and he “strongly agrees that people shouldn’t change the way they feed their dogs until further studies are done.”
10-29-21 Dogs can pick out individual words when we speak to them
Infants are able to identify individual words in continuous speech, even if they can't understand them – and now it seems dogs can as well. Dogs are able to pick out individual words from continuous speech like human infants can. Even without knowing what they mean, infants can recognise new words by noticing syllable patterns in speech, so Marianna Boros at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, and her colleagues wanted to find out if dogs can do the same. The researchers used electroencephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor the brain activity of 19 dogs. They then played the dogs a stream of three-syllable words from a made-up language, to ensure that the animals were hearing the words for the first time, as well as sounds that weren’t words. By comparing the dogs’ brain activity as they listened to the different recordings, the team found that they were paying attention to how often certain syllables occurred together, suggesting that they extract individual words from the speech. This ability to recognise separate syllables has been seen in infants as young as eight months old, when they segment speech while learning their first language. But language doesn’t just involve being able to recognise individual words: it has more complex rules, says Boros. “We don’t know if dogs will be able to follow those ones too.” “This is really just taking another brick down from that wall that says humans are so special,” says Holly Root-Gutteridge at the University of Lincoln, UK. “The fact that dogs can do this tells us a little bit about language evolution. It kind of fits into this building body of evidence that we have that other animals are communicating in more complex ways than we’d given them credit for.”
10-21-21 Wolf cubs raised by humans become attached to us like puppies
Wolves that are raised by people may have similar levels of attachment to humans as dogs. Christina Hansen Wheat and her colleagues assessed attachment behaviour in 12 Alaskan huskies from two different litters and 10 European grey wolves from three litters while Wheat was working at Stockholm University in Sweden. For the first two months of their lives, each litter – whether dog or wolf – was separately hand-raised and extensively exposed to humans, with the 24-hour presence of human caregivers. Caregiver presence was gradually reduced to the point where the puppies spent every other night without a caregiver present after the age of four months. The team found that both dogs and wolves showed similar attachment behaviours towards familiar people, such as greeting, following them around and expressing physical contact. Both sets of animals were also able to discriminate between a stranger and a familiar person at 23 weeks old. Similar tests have most commonly been used to explore and understand the relationship and behaviours that human children express towards their parents. “The kind of emotional and cognitive background that allows these behaviours to be shown is common among mammals. The fact that we see it in wolves is actually not surprising because it’s something that they can show towards their mothers,” says Giulia Cimarelli at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna in Austria, who wasn’t involved in the study. “[But] the fact that they can show it towards humans raises questions.” Domesticated animals have been thought to display more social attachment to humans than their wild ancestors. One suggestion has been that dogs evolved the ability to form attachments to people during the process of domestication.
10-5-21 Gifted dogs can learn 12 words in a week and remember them for months
Dogs with a special ability to understand human language can learn as many as 12 new words per week – and usually still remember them after a two-month lapse. So far, researchers have identified about a dozen pet dogs across the globe that possess the rare gift of word learning. Unlike other well-trained dogs that are able to distinguish between common commands like “sit” and “stay”, these dogs associate objects with words and can have a vocabulary exceeding 100 terms. In the latest in a series of studies on these Gifted Word Learner dogs, scientists have discovered that the animals can acquire human words at speeds similar to those of 1-year-old human babies, says Shany Dror at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary. Less than a year ago, Dror and her colleagues discovered that some dogs have an apparently exceptional natural ability to acquire object names, and they concluded that having this ability was similar to humans having musical or mathematical giftedness. To study this rare ability further, they used social media and announcements at international conferences to look for more Gifted Word Learner dogs throughout the world. In the end, they found only six qualifying dogs – all Border collies – with an average age of 3.6 years and an average vocabulary of 26 words. The three males and three females live in the US, Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway and Hungary. The researchers sent each dog’s owner a box containing six new toys. Owners then had six days to teach their dogs the names of the toys with their usual methods. These generally involved playing with the dog and each toy, often for just half an hour a day. At the end of the six-day learning period, the research team used online video conferencing to test the dogs’ abilities to pick out each toy by name from a scattering of multiple old and new toys on the floor. They asked each owner to sit with their dog in one room and tell them to fetch a given toy, saying “Bring the alien!” for example, from a second room equipped with a video camera. All the dogs successfully brought back at least five of the six new toys. The team then sent a second box with 12 new toys and repeated the process. All the dogs successfully brought back at least 11 of the toys. “The dog in Hungary actually knows more Hungarian than I do!” says Dror, who is originally from Israel.
7-21-21 What would become of dogs without humans? Here’s how they’d evolve
EVEN to their biggest fans, dogs can seem ridiculously lacking in survival skills. Rufus takes off at full pelt after a squirrel with an expression of great determination, only to reach a nearby tree long after the squirrel has scampered to safety. Bella barks ferociously at a metal statue of an elk. Poppy stalks a wind-blown paper bag down the pavement. Dickens refuses to go outside to urinate because it is raining. Jethro runs home with his tail between his legs when he encounters a wild animal nearby. Such anecdotes are a common source of amusement at dog parks, on social media and in dog-related conversations. But behind the laughter lurks an serious scientific question: if humans were to suddenly disappear from the scene, could dogs survive? After at least 14,000 years of domestication, could this species we have co-evolved with cope without provisions of food, care and regular cuddles? Intrigued by this question, we have explored it as a thought experiment in our upcoming book, A Dog’s World. Using evolutionary theory and the growing body of research on free-ranging dogs, we imagine a post-human future for pooches. We try to work out what they would look like; how they might forage, reproduce and raise young; the nature of their social lives; and the cognitive and emotional skills they would need to successfully navigate a world in which they must compete, cooperate and coexist with other animals. Where we wound up surprised us. Not only did it highlight the immense flexibility of our canine friends, it also revealed some important lessons about how humans can improve the lot of dogs while we are still here. Dogs are among the most successful species of mammal on the planet. A billion or so of them inhabit every corner of the globe, living in all sorts of places, from homes and urban metropolises to deserts, rainforests and high Tibetan plateaus. When asked to imagine a dog, most people in the UK and US will picture a pet on a leash, chasing a ball in a park or gobbling a bowl of food. In fact, only a small minority of the world’s dogs live as companion animals, whereas between 80 and 85 per cent live independently as feral, village, street or community dogs.
9-15-21 Why do dogs enjoy rolling in smelly fox or bird faeces?
A dog’s primary sense organ is its nose, and its primary sense is that of smell. Dogs identify each other, and probably us, too, by scent. This identification extends not only to the dog or person, but to the droppings they find. It has been said that “a lamppost is a dog’s social calendar”. It seems that the more powerful the predator, the stronger the smell of its droppings. I am told that tiger droppings are very pungent indeed. Those of a fox are notoriously rank. It seems fair to say that animals with pungent droppings are able to defend themselves, or at least are good at evasion. From this it appears that rolling in another animal’s droppings is a form of disguise as a creature that is more powerful. Young dogs seem to present themselves with a clear sense of pride in these circumstances, similar to when children dress up as superheroes. Rolling in smelly stuff is an evolutionary adaptation that goes back to canine pre-domestication times. Canids predisposed to this activity gave their descendants a paw up on the natural selection ladder. As the smelly stuff disguised dogs’ natural scent, it was thought that this would allow them to be better predators. However, researchers at the University of California discovered that grey foxes rubbed their faces in scent-marking areas used by pumas, a much larger predator. Smelling like a big feline predator wouldn’t help a fox much when approaching their prey. The researchers took the view that the foxes used the puma odour as a form of olfactory deception, in effect as a disguise that would act to deter other large predators which kill foxes, such as coyotes. Why do modern, domesticated dogs still love to writhe in smelly stuff? This hangover from their canid ancestors is fun. The activity stimulates the reward systems of the canine brain, releasing neurotransmitters that elicit pleasure, as is seen from a dog’s obvious delight after taking a roll in something mucky, much to the chagrin of its owner.
7-15-21 Would dogs return the favor if you gave them treats? It’s complicated
A study raises questions about both dogs’ ability to reciprocate and how experiments are set up. Dogs may not be inclined to return favors to people, at least when it involves food. The result, published July 14 in PLOS ONE, is somewhat surprising since a previous study showed dogs will return favors in the form of food to other dogs. In other studies, dogs helped their owners when the people appeared to be trapped, and canines were able to distinguish between helpful and unhelpful people. So it seems reasonable to think dogs might reciprocate good deeds by humans. To find out, comparative psychologist Jim McGetrick and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna trained pet dogs how to use a button to get food from a nearby dispenser. Each dog was then paired with a human, visible in an adjacent enclosure, who pressed the button to dispense food in the dog’s enclosure. On separate occasions, the dog was also paired with another human who didn’t press the button. When it was the dogs’ turn to offer food to their human partners, the canines were no more likely to press the button to provide food for the helpful human than for the stingy one. Why didn’t dogs return the humans’ food favors? It may be that they aren’t willing to, or perhaps aren’t able to form this sort of complicated tit-for-tat social contract with humans. Or, there’s another possibility, the study authors note: The dogs simply may not have understood what was being asked of them, which could come down to how the experiment was designed. Science News talked to McGetrick about the challenges of testing whether animals like dogs are capable of complex social behaviors. His answers have been edited for clarity and length: What aspects of the experiment may have influenced why a dog didn’t return the favor for a human? One possible explanation is the fact that dogs don’t provide humans with food. We feed them all the time, but it’s not something natural that they do. At the same time, dogs have been shown to reciprocate the receipt of food with other dogs [even though] adult dogs also don’t normally provide food to other adult dogs. So, if one applies the argument that this is an unusual setup because dogs don’t provide food to humans, I think one also needs to explain why it would be normal for a dog to provide food to another dog. (Webmsters Comment: Crows understand reciprocity, dogs do not.)
7-13-21 Dogs tune into people in ways even human-raised wolves don’t
A study supports the idea that domestication has wired dogs’ brains for communicating with people. Wiggles and wobbles and a powerful pull toward people — that’s what 8-week-old puppies are made of. From an early age, dogs outpace wolves at engaging with and interpreting cues from humans, even if the dogs have had less exposure to people, researchers report online July 12 in Current Biology. The result suggests that domestication has reworked dogs’ brains to make the pooches innately drawn to people — and perhaps to intuit human gestures. Compared with human-raised wolf pups, dog puppies that had limited exposure to people were still 30 times as likely to approach a strange human, and five times as likely to approach a familiar person. “I think that is by far the clearest result in the paper, and is powerful and meaningful,” says Clive Wynne, a canine behavioral scientist at Arizona State University in Tempe who was not involved in the study. Wolf pups are naturally less entranced by people than dogs are. “When I walked into the [wolf] pen for the first time, they would all just run into the corner and hide,” says Hannah Salomons, an evolutionary anthropologist studying dog cognition at Duke University. Over time, Salomons says, most came to ignore her, “acting like I was a piece of furniture.” But dogs can’t seem to resist humans’ allure (SN: 7/19/17). They respond much more readily to people, following where a person points, for example. That ability may seem simple, but it’s a skill even chimpanzees — humans’ close relatives — don’t show. Human babies don’t learn how to do it until near their first birthday. When wolves have been put to the task, the results have been mixed, suggesting that wolves need explicit training to learn the skill. Scientists haven’t been sure if dogs’ ability is learned or, after at least 14,000 years of domestication, has become innate (SN: 1/7/21).
7-7-21 How Stella Learned to Talk review: Can a dog really talk?
How Stella Learned to Talk: The groundbreaking story of the world’s first talking dog. WHEN Stella, a chocolate brown dog, began moving around the house, Christina Hunger realised her dog was unusual. The 8-week-old puppy acted like the children that Hunger, a speech-language pathologist, worked with. “She was communicating how toddlers communicate right before they start saying words,” she writes in How Stella Learned to Talk, her book about her experiences with the dog. Hunger asked a simple question: if dogs can understand words, what if they had another way to say words? Her book charts attempts to get Stella to communicate using an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device, similar to the ones she uses with children who don’t speak. Hunger now claims Stella is “the world’s first talking dog”, and encourages others to coax their dogs to “talk” by pushing paw-sized buttons associated with different words. One of the key apparent breakthroughs in communication came when Hunger was watering plants and Stella was watching her. The dog left the room and went to her AAC. There, she pressed the word Hunger had programmed for water. “I started realising she might be able to use words for different functions, not just requesting something,” says Hunger. Stella seemingly began combining words for the situations she was trying to communicate to Hunger. That, says Hunger, is evidence that Stella was engaging in communication, not being conditioned to hit a button when an environmental change occurred. Though others dispute this. Stella is still developing her language skills, says Hunger. She is able to combine up to five words to create phrases and short, simple sentences. Stella uses her vocabulary every day, mixing up the words to communicate different goals to different people. The success with Stella shows that we need to keep researching this area, says Hunger, because dogs are hearing human words every day and making associations. “They just haven’t had a way to say them themselves. As more and more people keep teaching their dogs, we’re going to discover this range is normal, just like it is with human language,” she writes.
5-25-21 Gray wolves scare deer from roads, reducing dangerous collisions
In Wisconsin counties with wolves, deer-car accidents dropped, saving millions of dollars. Gray wolves help keep North America’s deer populations in check, and by doing so, may provide an added benefit for people: curbing deer-vehicle collisions. In Wisconsin counties where wolf populations returned, the number of such collisions dropped in each area by 24 percent on average, scientists report online May 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Economist Jennifer Raynor and colleagues analyzed data on wolf populations, deer populations and deer-vehicle collisions for 63 counties in Wisconsin from 1988 to 2010. In the 29 counties that had wolves, the predators thinning deer populations contributed about a 6 percent reduction in deer-vehicle collisions. The rest of the decrease, the team proposes, was due to the wolves’ presence near roads, which they use as travel corridors, creating a so-called “landscape of fear” that keeps deer away. That suggests that recreational hunters wouldn’t replicate wolves’ impact by simply culling the same number of deer, the researchers say. The average drop of 38 deer-vehicle collisions per year in counties with wolves translates to an estimated $10.9 million in savings each year across the state, the team found. For comparison, the state paid about $3 million over the last 35 years to compensate for wolf damages. There may be other economic benefits not measured by the study such as reductions in damage to agriculture by deer and in Lyme disease frequency, says Raynor of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn (SN: 11/15/18). “The most interesting thing to me about choosing Wisconsin as a case study is that this is a human-dominated landscape,” Raynor says. Similar analyses could guide management decisions where potential wolf habitats overlap with heavily populated areas, such as in the northeastern United States, she and colleagues propose.
2-18-21 Dogs prove they are aware of their own bodies when playing fetch
Dogs seem to be conscious of their bodies and understand that their own actions have consequences. Research has previously shown that dogs can pick up on human emotions and can use deception, but it has been unclear whether or not they show self-awareness. “We need to take into account the ecology and evolution of the species,” says Rita Lenkei at Eötvös Loránd University Budapest, Hungary. “As they evolved in complex human societies, dogs should possess one of the basic self-awareness abilities,” she says. So Lenkei and her colleagues performed a test for body awareness in which an individual’s body became an obstacle to achieving a goal. In a test involving 32 dogs, the researchers instructed each animal to retrieve a toy. In some cases, the toy was attached to a mat that the dog was standing on, meaning the animal had to move off the mat in order to bring the toy to the instructor. In other cases, the toy was secured to the ground, making it impossible to retrieve even if the dog left the mat. For the trials in which the toy was attached to the mat, the team found that about 80 per cent of dogs left the mat when attempting to complete the task – the figure dropped to 50 per cent for the trials in which the toy was attached to the ground. What’s more, dogs that left the mat were more likely to do so with the toy in their mouth if the toy was attached to the mat rather than to the floor. Lenkei says these findings suggest that dogs understand their bodies can get in the way when it comes to completing tasks and know to move accordingly, pointing towards a sense of body awareness. Juliane Bräuer, who runs the dog labs at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany, says these results aren’t surprising, but lay the groundwork for future self-awareness studies. “We know dog strengths lie in social cognition and communication, so it’s interesting to show they actually know something about their physical environment,” says Bräuer.
10-30-20 Dogs are humans' oldest companions, DNA shows
A study of dog DNA has shown that our "best friend" in the animal world may also be our oldest one. The analysis reveals that dog domestication can be traced back 11,000 years, to the end of the last Ice Age. This confirms that dogs were domesticated before any other known species. Our canine companions were widespread across the northern hemisphere at this time, and had already split into five different types. Despite the expansion of European dogs during the colonial era, traces of these ancient indigenous breeds survive today in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. The research fills in some of the gaps in the natural history of our close animal companions. Dr Pontus Skoglund, co-author of the study and group leader of the Ancient Genomics laboratory at London's Crick Institute, told BBC News: "Dogs are really unique in being this quite strange thing if you think about it, when all people were still hunter gatherers, they domesticate what is really a wild carnivore - wolves are pretty frightening in many parts of the world. "The question of why did people do that? How did that come about? That's what we're ultimately interested in." To some extent, dog genetic patterns mirror human ones, because people took their animal companions with them when they moved. But there were also important differences. For example, early European dogs were initially diverse, appearing to originate from two very distinct populations, one related to Near Eastern dogs and another to Siberian dogs. But at some point, perhaps after the onset of the Bronze Age, a single dog lineage spread widely and replaced all other dog populations on the continent. This pattern has no counterpart in the genetic patterns of people from Europe. Anders Bergström, lead author and post-doctoral researcher at the Crick, said: "If we look back more than four or five thousand years ago, we can see that Europe was a very diverse place when it came to dogs. Although the European dogs we see today come in such an extraordinary array of shapes and forms, genetically they derive from only a very narrow subset of the diversity that used to exist." An international team analysed the whole genomes (the full complement of DNA in the nuclei of biological cells) of 27 ancient dog remains associated with a variety of archaeological cultures. They compared these to each other and to modern dogs. The results reveal that breeds like the Rhodesian Ridgeback in southern Africa and the Chihuahua and Xoloitzcuintli in Mexico retain genetic traces of ancient indigenous dogs from the region.
10-6-20 Your dog’s brain doesn’t care about your face
Unlike people, canines don’t seem to have neural systems that are extra sensitive to visages. Lots of dog owners love to gaze at their pups’ faces. But that fascination may be a one-way street, at least in the brain. Dogs’ brains aren’t especially impressed by faces, either those of other dogs, or of people, a new study suggests. People’s brains are exquisitely tuned into faces, and the wealth of information that expressions can convey. Whether other animals’ brains are as vigilant to faces is an open question. Researchers in Hungary and Mexico used brain-scanning technology on 20 pet dogs to measure responses to faces. The dogs were trained to lie still in a sphynx position inside an MRI tube, resting their head on a chin rest while watching a screen. The scientists played four types of two-second video clips for the dogs to view: the front or back of a human head, and the front or back of a dog head. Thirty human volunteers in MRI machines saw the same short videos. As many earlier studies have found, faces were captivating for people. When shown a face — either human or dog — a large swath of these people’s visual systems became active. These brain regions were quieter when the people saw the backs of heads. The vision-processing parts of the dogs’ brains, however, didn’t seem to care about faces, the researchers report October 5 in the Journal of Neuroscience. No brain areas had greater activity when viewing a face compared with the back of a head. Instead, areas of the dogs’ visual systems were more tuned to whether the video featured a dog or a human. Still, the study measured brain responses — not behavior. The results don’t mean that dogs themselves don’t see, or don’t care, about faces. Other studies have shown that canines can recognize people’s facial cues. (Webmaster's comment: A dog's major sense for understanding the world is smell.)
8-13-20 Treats are better than electric shocks for training badly behaved dogs
If you want to train a badly behaved dog, a tasty treat is more likely to succeed than an electric shock, animal behaviour researchers have found. “We advocate the use of reward-based training in modifying dog behaviour, as our work indicates it is more effective than training which involves aversive stimuli, and it carries fewer risks to dog welfare,” says Jonathan Cooper at the University of Lincoln, UK. Cooper and his colleagues compared the two training methods using 63 dogs split into three groups. All the animals required training for failing to come when called and for repeatedly chasing livestock. The team asked professional handlers nominated by the Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association (ECMA), a trade group based in Brussels, Belgium, to train one group. They used e-collars that can deliver a shock along with additional methods, including pulling on the dog’s leash or offering food and praise. They also trained a second group using the same training methods, but without the use of e-collars, as a control. In the third group, professional members of the UK-based Association of Pet Dog Trainers used their reward-based training method, which incorporates praise, play and food as rewards. All of the dogs were trained in the presence of penned livestock and wore 10-metre leashes and e-collars during the study, but the collars were deactivated in the latter two groups. Analysing videos of up to 150 minutes of training over a five-day period for each dog, Cooper and his colleagues found that those in the reward group responded to commands faster and with fewer reminders, he says. For example, the reward group came to the trainer on average 1.13 seconds after the “come” command, compared with 1.35 seconds for the e-collar group and 1.24 seconds for the control group. And 82 per cent of those dogs responded after a single “come” command, on average, compared with only 71 per cent in the e-collar group and 72 per cent in the control group. In other words, the e-collar dogs more often needed to hear the command more than once.
3-13-20 Dogs’ heat-seeking noses
Scientists may have solved one of the great mysteries of the animal kingdom, reports ScienceMag.org: why dogs have cold, wet noses. Most mammals have smooth, dry skin around the edges of their nostrils, an area known as the rhinarium. But dogs rhinaria are moist, colder than the ambient temperature, and packed with nerves. Vampire bats have cool patches near their noses that act as heat detectors, so researchers in Sweden and Hungary wondered if canine rhinaria might work in a similar way, helping them track warm-blooded prey. To test this theory, scientists trained three pet dogs to identify which of two identical 4-inch wide objects had been warmed to about 22 degrees Fahrenheit above room temperature. All of the dogs were able to identify the hotter object at a distance of 5 feet. Scientists then scanned the brains of 13 dogs as they were exposed to a warm object and one kept at room temperature. Sure enough, the part of the brain linked to the dogs’ noses became more active when the pooches were shown the warm object. “It’s a fascinating discovery,” says Marc Bekoff, an expert on canine sniffing at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who wasn’t involved in the study. It “provides yet another window into the sensory worlds of dogs’ highly evolved cold noses.”
2-12-20 Wolves regurgitate blueberries for their pups to eat
Fruit may be more important to the animals’ diet than previously thought. Gray wolves are known to snack on blueberries, but the animals do more than fill their own bellies. A new, serendipitous observation shows an adult wolf regurgitating the berries for its pups to eat, the first time anyone has documented this behavior. Wolves have a well-earned reputation as skillful hunters with a taste for large, hoofed ungulates like deer and moose. But scientists are increasingly recognizing that these predators have an exceptionally varied diet, partaking in everything from beavers and fish to fruit. In 2017, biologist Austin Homkes of Northern Michigan University in Marquette got a sense of just how important this mixed diet could be for wolves. A cluster of signals from a GPS collar on a wolf led Homkes to a meadow just outside Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park. Homkes, who was studying the animals’ predatory and dietary habits, thought he was headed for a spot where the wolf had killed a meal. But it turned out to be a rendezvous site, with adult wolves bringing food to their no longer den-bound pups. Homkes watched from a distance as several pups gathered around an adult wolf, licking up at its mouth. This behavior stimulates adult wolves to throw up a recent meal. Sure enough, the adult began vomiting, and the pups eagerly ate what accumulated on the ground. After the wolves left, Homkes got closer and saw that the regurgitated piles were purely of partially chewed blueberries, he and colleagues report February 11 in the Wildlife Society Bulletin. “It’s a pretty big part of wolf ecology that was right under our noses that we didn’t see,” Homkes says. Until now, he and his colleagues thought pups in the region just casually munched on berries while hanging around rendezvous sites, which often contain blueberry plants. The fruit may be an underappreciated food source for the pups, the researchers think.
1-31-20 Playing fetch with wolves
Scientists have identified a possible explanation for why dogs became man’s best friend: because they could play fetch. It was long assumed that dogs had to evolve over hundreds of years to enjoy retrieving a stick tossed by their human masters. But researchers at Stockholm University have discovered that wolves—our pet pooches’ wild ancestors and the first animals tamed by early humans some 15,000 years ago—don’t have to be trained or selectively bred to chase after an object and retrieve it. Instead, some young wolves appear to have an innate playful streak and a willingness to respond to human instruction. Those findings come from behavioral tests on three litters of hand-raised, 8-week-old wolf pups, in which a stranger threw a ball and then called for the pup that picked it up to return it. Of the 13 pups in the test, three brought the ball back; one did so in all three tries. Lead author Christina Hansen Wheat says this suggests that the game of fetch may have been key to the domestication process—that humans selected and bred those wolves that were willing to play. “It makes sense,” she tells The Times (U.K.). “We connect with our dogs when we interact with them.”
1-16-20 We’ve seen wolf pups play fetch just like dogs for the first time
Fetching a thrown ball is one of the most quintessential dog behaviours, right up there with begging for scraps and tail wagging. But new research suggests that fetching may be older than dogs themselves, as some wolf pups also seem to enjoy the game. The first observations of wolf pups fetching balls for humans happened unexpectedly, says Christina Hansen Wheat at Stockholm University in Sweden. Hansen Wheat’s team studies the behavioural changes involved in domestication using dogs and wolves as a model. The team hand-reared wolf pups from three litters from the age of 10 days. When they were 8 weeks old, the team put the pups through a standardised series of tests to evaluate their behaviour. One of these tests was having an unfamiliar human toss a tennis ball across the room to see how much it captured the pup’s attention. Almost all of the pups from the 2014 and 2015 litters flatly ignored the ball. One gave it a passing glance. The next year, one pup shocked the scientists by not only chasing down the ball and snatching it up, but bringing it back to the human when coaxed. Hansen Wheat was watching from another room. “I literally got goosebumps,” she says, adding that dogs’ ability to interpret socially communicative behaviour from humans – like following a human’s cues to bring a ball back – has been considered a consequence of the domestication process. “Retrieving for a human has never before been shown in wolves,” says Hansen Wheat. In the end, three wolves from the 2016 litter fetched the balls, and one did it on all three trials of the test. Others played with the ball but wouldn’t return it. Hansen Wheat thinks the difference is likely to be rooted in the pups’ genetics, since the litters were brought up under identical conditions. Evan MacLean at the University of Arizona finds the ball retrieval particularly intriguing. “The first part – chasing, picking up in mouth – is largely within the predatory play repertoire,” says MacLean. “The returning with the object to the person is decidedly more dog-like.”
12-13-19 Wolf-watching in Yellowstone
“Grab your binoculars,” because “wolves are making a comeback,” said Kitson Jazynka in National Geographic Traveler. Forty years of conservation efforts have aided the stately animals’ resurgence, and winter is a great time to spot their gray coats against the snow in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, as well as Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness. During a Yellowstone safari with Natural Habitat Adventures, “I felt as if I were stepping back centuries in time to when wildlife roamed freely,” said Ali Wunderman in Travel + Leisure. Moose, bison, elk, and otters all made appearances, as did a red fox, who curiously approached my campfire. Wolves remain elusive, but when I heard an eerie howl and then saw a group of seven, a shiver ran down my spine. “Seeing an apex predator in the wild goes beyond a mere travel memory or a snapshot. These moments reconnect us with the world as it’s meant to be.”
12-4-19 Heroism and slapstick humour: Wolf behaviour can be amazingly human
In his 21 years at Yellowstone national park Rick McIntyre has seen more wolf activity than anyone else. He shares some amazing insights. I worked at Denali National Park in Alaska for 15 summers after college and originally was most interested in grizzly bears. I saw them nearly every day. But I found that wolves had much more interesting behaviour, such as how they live in extended family groups and work together to hunt, raise their pups and defend their territory from rival packs. Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. I would set up a spotting scope, find the local pack and invite visitors to have a look. It was a very emotional experience to watch a wolf pack travelling, hunting and playing in Yellowstone after being absent for 69 years. People would cry and hug me in thanks for showing them. I have been reading books by primatologist Frans de Waal and found his writing about the social behaviour and intellectual abilities of primates relevant to wolves. For example, I would say that wolves have a theory of mind, as do primates. Wolf 8 was one of the smallest wolves introduced to Yellowstone and didn’t seem to have much potential. But after an alpha male was killed on the day his mate gave birth, 8 befriended the pups. The mother wolf wanted help, so she let 8 into her pack, despite his inexperience. He became a great alpha male and raised the pups as his own. He also defeated another alpha male despite his larger size and unexpectedly let the wolf go rather than kill him. One of the pups 8 raised was wolf 21. He was invincible in battle but, as he had seen 8 do, he always let the other wolf go. 21 was attentive to his pups and spent a lot of time playing with them. He even appeared to have a sense of humour and would do things like fall over for no reason, like a comedian doing a pratfall.
6-28-19 The origin of puppy-dog eyes
Scientists now know how man’s best friend got its puppy-dog eyes. The sad, soulful expression that turns dog owners into total pushovers is the result of tens of thousands of years of evolution and an eyebrow-raising muscle. To understand how the process of domestication shaped the modern pooch, researchers dissected the heads of wolves and dogs that had died natural deaths. They found that the musculature of the heads differed only in one key area: around the eyes. Unlike wolves, dogs have a small levator muscle that lets them raise their inner eyebrow, making the eye appear larger and more babyish. This, the researchers said, is evidence of evolution in action: In the early days of domestication, some 33,000 years ago, the wolves that could elicit the most sympathy from our Stone Age ancestors would have received the most scraps of food. Ancient canines with expressive eyebrows had an evolutionary advantage that they then passed on to their descendants. “We prefer dogs with these kind of infant-like large eyes,” co-author Juliane Kaminski, from the University of Portsmouth in England, tells The Times (U.K.). “We see this movement, this raised eyebrow, and it triggers a nurturing response. We want to take care of this thing.”
6-18-19 Dogs' eyes evolve to appeal to humans
If a dog has eyes that seem to be telling you something or demanding your attention, it could be evolution's way of manipulating your feelings. Researchers have found that dogs have evolved muscles around their eyes, which allow them to make expressions that particularly appeal to humans. A small facial muscle allows dog eyes to mimic an "infant-like" expression which prompts a "nurturing response". The study says such "puppy eyes" helped domesticated dogs to bond with humans. Previous studies have shown how such canine expressions can appeal to humans, but this research from the UK and US shows there has been an anatomical change around dogs' eyes to make it possible. This allows dogs to create what the researchers call "expressive eyebrows" and to "create the illusion of human-like communication". "When dogs make the movement, it seems to elicit a strong desire in humans to look after them," says the study, co-authored by Dr Juliane Kaminski at the University of Portsmouth. This muscle movement allows dogs' eyes to "appear larger, more infant-like and also resembles a movement humans produce when they are sad". She says that humans would have an "unconscious preference" to protect and breed from dogs with such an appealing trait, giving them an evolutionary advantage and reinforcing this change in subsequent generations. "The evidence is compelling that dogs developed a muscle to raise the inner eyebrow after they were domesticated from wolves," says Dr Kaminski, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. The findings, from UK and US researchers in anatomy and comparative psychology, show that the facial change has developed over thousands of years of dogs living alongside humans. Previous research has shown that dogs are more likely to use this "puppy eyes" expression when a human is looking at them - suggesting that it is a deliberate behaviour and intended for human consumption. Anatomist and report co-author, Professor Anne Burrows of Duquesne University in the US, says that in evolutionary terms the changes to dogs' facial muscles was "remarkably fast" and could be "directly linked to dogs' enhanced social interaction with humans".
6-17-19 Dogs evolved a special muscle that lets them make puppy dog eyes
Human selection has resulted in dogs evolving more expressive faces. They have a facial muscle for making the “puppy dog eyes” that melt many peoples’ hearts that does not exist in wolves – the ancestors of dogs. This muscle allows dogs to lift up their inner “eyebrow”, which makes their eye look larger. This makes them look more like childlike and also rather sad – the puppy dog eyes look. It really does make dogs more appealing to us. In 2013, Juliane Kaminski at the University of Portsmouth and colleagues videotaped dogs interacting with strangers at a shelter to see what made them more likely to be adopted. “The only thing that seemed to have an effect is this eyebrow movement,” she says. Dogs that made this movement more often were adopted sooner. “It was a surprising result,” says Kaminski, who studies dog-human communication. “That got us really interested.” In 2017, her team showed that dogs make this movement more often when people are looking at them. Now Kaminski and some anatomists have dissected 6 dogs and 4 grey wolves to compare their facial muscles (they used existing specimens – no animals were killed for this study). In dogs, the eyebrow motion is made by a muscle above their eyes, on the inner side nearer the nose, called the levator anguli oculi medialis. Five of the 6 dogs had this muscle. The one exception was a Siberian husky – an ancient breed more closely related to wolves than most dogs. In the wolves – which cannot raise their eyebrows as much – this muscle did not exist. In its place there was a small tendon partially connected to another muscle. So Kaminski thinks this muscle evolved because people favoured dogs that make this expression.
5-27-19 Where is the line between dog and wolf?
The answer isn't in their DNA. Living in the Canadian Rockies allows me ample opportunities to get out into nature. Just an hour outside the city, I can be within wilderness, with no cellphone reception and no other humans. Such wilderness, of course, comes with plenty of wildlife, including a number of contemporary North American canines such as coyotes and wolves. While I tend to go without any human company, I do have a canine companion, one taxonomically positioned within the species Canis familiaris but also bearing a proper name, Yuni, which distinguishes him as a particular individual apart from his species. Above the 42nd parallel, snow is plentiful in these parts of the Rockies, often starting to fall early in the autumn. While Yuni and I get out plenty in the summer, enjoying the relative warmth of the area, we are both in our element during the winter. Yuni is a Finnish Lapphund, a breed from northern Scandinavia; my ancestors are positioned within southern Scandinavia. Being out in the wild during winter affords me, a human, with rich visual signs present in the landscape. Yuni's cues are predominantly olfactory, though at times he also responds visually to the prints left on the ground. Sometimes, we stand paw-print to paw-print, wolf steps next to dog steps. We haven't come face to face with these wolves, but we sometimes listen to their howls in the near distance. Most of the common cultural representations that inform my human mind tell me that we should be very wary, even scared, in the presence of these wild canines. Within the domains of human culture, wolves are commonly evoked as predatory and aggressive. Some locals even inform me that Yuni and I could be torn apart at any moment. My dog certainly doesn't act with any fear in these situations. After all, his existence falls outside the domain of most, though certainly not all, human language games. His is also a dog variety bred for reindeer herding where part of the job is to protect the herd from predators.
4-9-19 Wolves return to Netherlands after 140 years
The Netherlands has its first resident wolf population in 140 years, according to ecologists. Wolves were hunted out of many European countries over a century ago but have gradually been migrating back across the continental mainland. Occasional wolf sightings have been made in the Netherlands since 2015. But these animals were previously thought to be animals that had crossed over temporarily from Germany and would subsequently return there. Ecologists from campaign groups FreeNature and Wolven in Nederland have been tracking two females in the Veluwe area, collecting wolf prints and scat (droppings) from which they can identify DNA."It's like Tinder," said ecologist Mirte Kruit, "it can say if it's a male or female, are they single and looking for a mate and [tell you] about their family." They've told BBC Radio 4's Costing the Earth that their data now confirms one of the females has stayed continuously for six months and can now be considered "established". A male has also been seen in the area so the first Dutch wolf pack could be months away. They are still collecting data on the second female. Wolves are controversial, however. In France, since returning from Italy in 1992, their population has grown rapidly and sheep and goat farmers say they're suffering rising attacks, with around 12,000 incidents reported. Farmers can receive compensation if they have protection measures in place, like electric fences or guard dogs, but many are still angry about the damage caused to the flock. The French Government formed a cohabitation plan and in February last year set a target wolf population of 500 by 2023. However its thought this number may be reached or surpassed by this Winter and it's proposing to increase the cull rate from 12% to 17% if that's confirmed. 3-14-19
Study reveals the wolf within your pet dog
Wolves lead and dogs follow - but both are equally capable of working with humans, according to research that adds a new twist in the tale of how one was domesticated from the other. Dogs owe their cooperative nature to "the wolf within", the study, of cubs raised alongside people, suggests. But in the course of domestication, those that were submissive to humans were selected for breeding, which makes them the better pet today. Grey wolves, at the Wolf Science Center in Vienna, were just as good as dogs at working with their trainers to drag a tray of food towards them by each taking one end of a rope. But, unlike the dogs in the study, they were willing to try their own tactics as well - such as stealing the rope from the trainer. Friederike Range, from the Konrad Lorenz Institute, at Vetmeduni Vienna university, said: "It shows that, while wolves tend to initiate behaviour and take the lead, dogs are more likely to wait and see what the human partner does and follow that behaviour." About 30,000 years ago, wolves moved to the edges of human camps to scavenge for leftovers. The subsequent "taming" process of domestication and selective breeding then slowly began to alter their behaviour and genes and they eventually evolved into the dogs that we know today.
2-4-19 DNA from extinct red wolves lives on in some mysterious Texas coyotes
The find raises questions of whether conservation efforts should preserve DNA, not just species. Mysterious red-coated canids in Texas are stirring debate over how genetic diversity should be preserved. “I thought they were some strange looking coyotes,” wildlife biologist Ron Wooten says of the canids on Galveston Island, where Wooten works. But DNA evidence suggests the large canids might be descendants of red wolves, a species declared in 1980 to be extinct in the wild. A small population of red wolves from a captive breeding program lives in a carefully monitored conservation area in North Carolina. But those wolves have had no contact with other canids, including those in Texas. So maybe, Wooten thought, red wolves never actually went extinct in the wild. He made it his mission to find out. “There was no way I could let this go,” he says. He reached out to evolutionary geneticist Bridgett vonHoldt at Princeton University. She and colleagues have amassed genetic data on about 2,000 North American canids, mostly coyotes and wolves, but with a few dogs thrown into the mix. VonHoldt regularly receives photographs of wolflike animals with requests to identify what species they belong to — an exercise she describes as “really challenging and possibly misleading.” Instead, she asks for tissue samples so that her team can analyze the animal’s DNA. “Many pictures I don’t give a second thought to,” she says. But Wooten’s photos of the Galveston Island canids were “a little bit different.… It just doesn’t look typical of a standard coyote.”
11-16-18 A street-savvy dog in the Philippines followed his owner to work by taking a solo ride on public transport.
A street-savvy dog in the Philippines followed his owner to work by taking a solo ride on public transport. Commuters said the pet, Vince, boarded a bus and calmly took a seat between two passengers. Cellphone footage showed him staring out the window at passing traffic, and then wagging his tail after spotting his owner on the back of a truck in the next lane. “Oh my! It’s Vince! Why did you follow us? You crazy dog!” she said as Vince hoped off the bus to meet her. The pair climbed aboard the truck and rode away together.
8-7-18 New Scientist Live: dogs and people, a 40,000-year love story
In London this September, Juliane Kaminski will be arguing that dogs have spent so long living alongside humans that they have evolved to think just like us. Man’s best friend is also our oldest friend – DNA suggests that dogs split from wolves 40,000 years ago, and this may have happened multiple times. But it’s only recently that researchers have begun to investigate dogs as a man-made species, uncovering what makes our relationship with them so special. Juliane Kaminski, of the University of Portsmouth, UK, will be arguing at New Scientist Live this September that dogs have spent so long living alongside people that they have evolved to think just like us. The relationship between our species is so close that dogs can see, hear and even smell our emotions, and then adopt them as their own. They are good judges of character, too, preferring people who help others over those who don’t cooperate. And they have been discovered to resort to deception to get treats from unreliable humans. The dog brain processes language in the same way as ours, and dogs can tell when we’re using positive words and encouraging intonation to praise them. Dogs are often better than our closest primate relatives at understanding human gestures, and they know exactly when to make puppy eyes at people.
7-5-18 North America’s earliest dogs came from Siberia
An ancient DNA study indicates that people brought dogs to North America at least 10,000 years ago. Modern American dogs share little ancestry with these ancient fidos, researchers say. North America’s first dogs arrived with humans who crossed a land bridge from Northeast Asia around 10,000 years ago or earlier, an analysis of ancient dogs’ DNA suggests. Those early American dogs derived from a Siberian ancestor, not North American wolves as some researchers have presumed, an international team reports in the July 6 Science. Genetic traces of ancient American dogs have nearly vanished from present-day pooches, possibly because European colonists selectively bred their own dogs starting around 500 years ago. Researchers reached that conclusion based on analyses of 71 mitochondrial genomes and seven nuclear genomes of dogs excavated at ancient North American and Siberian sites. Those data were compared with DNA from modern dogs and wolves.
2-21-18 France wants to have 500 wolves roaming its countryside
The number of wolves in France will be allowed to increase by 40 per cent, as wilderness continues its return to Europe. FRANCE will let its wolf population grow by 40 per cent, despite anger from farmers worried for their sheep. Wolves were eradicated from France by hunting in the 1930s, but since the 90s they have been creeping back from Italy. There are now thought to be 360 wolves in France. The government announced a new strategy this week that will allow the population to grow to 500 by 2023. To appease farmers, 10 per cent of the population may be culled each year. Farmers are also authorised to shoot any time their flocks are under attack. Around 10,000 sheep were killed by wolves in the Alps in 2016, and France paid €3.2 million of compensation to farmers. Under the new plan, farmers can apply for funding to protect their animals, but compensation will be contingent on them putting up fences and other protective measures. Wolves are protected in Europe by the 1979 Bern Convention. Environmentalists see their return as a positive, and many are opposed to the hunting of wolves.
2-19-18 France to let wolf population grow despite farmers' fears
France is to allow the wolf population to grow from about 360 now to 500 by 2023, despite protests from farmers worried about their livestock. A new plan announced by the government represents a rise of nearly 40% in the wolf population. After being eradicated by hunters in the 1930s, the wolf made its way back into France from Italy in the 1990s. Wolves are listed as a protected species by the Bern Convention that France has signed up to. Animal rights groups had been pushing for a more radical proposal and accused ministers of lacking political courage. In a gesture to farmers, the government said that hunters in France would still be allowed to cull 40 wolves this year, the same as in 2017. Up to 10% of the wolf population could be culled every year from 2019, and that proportion could rise to 12% if more frequent wolf attacks were registered. Almost 12,000 sheep were killed by wolves in France in 2017 and the government has come under strong pressure from farmers in French regions - particularly in the Alps and the Pyrenees. "We place trust in all of the stakeholders and local lawmakers to calm the debate and enable co-existence over the long-term," Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert and Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot said in a joint statement. The new plan also envisages that livestock owners will be able to apply for state funds to protect their animals from wolves. France is not the only Western European country witnessing the return of the wolf. Last month a wolf was spotted in the Flanders region of northern Belgium for the first time in over a century. There were an estimated 60 wolf packs living in Germany in 2017, a rise of some 15% on the previous year. (Webmaster's comment: Most of their natural game has been eradicated, that's why they eat livestock.)
12-1-17 Dogs boost longevity
Any dog owner can tell you a canine companion makes life better. But new research has found a pooch can also make life longer and healthier—particularly if you live alone. Scientists in Sweden examined the health and dog-ownership records of some 3.4 million people between 40 and 80 years old. They found that for those who live alone, owning a dog is associated with a 33 percent lower risk of death and a 36 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease over a 12-year period. The study found that dog ownership was also beneficial for those who didn’t live alone, cutting their overall risk of death by 11 percent, reports CNN.com. The researchers say it’s unclear whether the companionship and emotional support a dog provides alone explains their findings, or whether lifestyle changes associated with owning a dog—including taking Fido out for walks—are also a factor. “There are numerous studies showing that dog owners get more physical activity, which could help to prolong a healthy life,” says senior researcher Tove Fall. It’s also possible that exposure to a dog’s germs, fur, and slobber could also strengthen the immune system.
10-19-17 Dogs really can smell your fear, and then they get scared too
Dogs really can smell your fear, and then they get scared too
There is an urban myth that dogs can smell human emotions, now it seems to be true: dogs can sense a person’s emotional state just by sniffing a sample of their sweat. Dog owners swear that their furry best friend is in tune with their emotions. Now it seems this feeling of interspecies connection is real: dogs can smell your emotional state, and adopt your emotions as their own. Science had already shown that dogs can see and hear the signs of human emotions, says Biagio D’Aniello of the University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy. But nobody had studied whether dogs could pick up on olfactory cues from humans. “The role of the olfactory system has been largely underestimated, maybe because our own species is more focused on the visual system,” says D’Aniello. However, dogs’ sense of smell is far superior to ours. D’Aniello and his colleagues tested whether dogs could sniff out human emotions by smell alone. First, human volunteers watched videos designed to cause fear or happiness, or a neutral response, and the team collected samples of their sweat. Next, the researchers presented these odour samples to domestic dogs, and monitored the dogs’ behaviours and heart rates. Dogs exposed to fear smells showed more signs of stress than those exposed to happy or neutral smells. They also had higher heart rates, and sought more reassurance from their owners and made less social contact with strangers.
10-16-17 'Big, bad wolf' image flawed - scientists
'Big, bad wolf' image flawed - scientists
New research casts doubt on the idea that dogs are naturally more tolerant and friendly than wolves. In tests of cooperation skills, wolves outperformed their domesticated relatives. Scientists say the findings challenge assumptions about how dogs were tamed from wolves and came to live alongside humans. Previous evidence has suggested that the domestication process may have given dogs a more tolerant temperament. "We still have very much this idea of the big, bad wolf and the cuddly pooch on your sofa," Dr Sarah Marshall-Pescini, who led the research, told BBC News. "But, I think the simplest message is that the story is not quite as clear as that." Wolves are highly social animals. They live in close-knit family groups, raise puppies together and hunt in groups. This sort of behaviour is not seen in modern dogs, despite the idea that domestication selected for dogs that were more tolerant and friendly, both of each other, and humans.
9-6-17 Swansea Uni study: African wild dogs 'sneeze to vote'
Swansea Uni study: African wild dogs 'sneeze to vote'
African wild dogs vote over pack decisions by sneezing, a new study has found. The joint research by academics from Swansea, Australia and the United States monitored endangered dogs at the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust. They found the dogs used sneezes to decide when to move off to hunt after making camp for greeting ceremonies called "social rallies". Dr Andrew King, of Swansea University, said the sneezes acted as a "quorum". The study was carried out by zoologists from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, Brown University, in the United States, and Swansea University's College of Science. Previously it had been thought the dogs, which are among the world's most-endangered species, were simply clearing their airways. But, while zoologists recorded the details of 68 social rallies, they noticed the more sneezes there were, the more likely it was the pack moved off and started hunting. Dr King said: "The sneezes act as a type of quorum, and the sneezes have to reach a certain threshold before the group changes activity. "Quorums are also used by other social carnivores such as meerkats." However, the study suggested some sneezes hold more weight than others. Reena Walker, of Brown University, said: "We found that, when the dominant male and female were involved in the rally, the pack only had to sneeze a few times before they would move off. "However, if the dominant pair were not engaged, more sneezes were needed - approximately 10 - before the pack would move off".
7-20-17 Why dogs are friendly - it's written in their genes
Why dogs are friendly - it's written in their genes
Being friendly is in dogs' nature and could be key to how they came to share our lives, say US scientists. Dogs evolved from wolves tens of thousands of years ago. During this time, certain genes that make dogs particularly gregarious have been selected for, according to research. This may give dogs their distinctive personalities, including a craving for human company. "Our finding of genetic variation in both dogs and wolves provides a possible insight into animal personality, and may even suggest similar genes may have roles in other domestic species (maybe cats even)," said Dr Bridgett vonHoldt of Princeton University. The researchers studied the behaviour of domestic dogs, and grey wolves living in captivity. They carried out a number of tests of the animals' skills at problem-solving and sociability. (Webmaster's comment: Friendliness genes are in some human beings too, but not in nearly enough of them. Case in point, hate groups in America!)
7-19-17 First dogs may have been extremely sociable wolves
First dogs may have been extremely sociable wolves
Wolves and dogs that are friendliest to people carry mutations in genes with links to sociability, backing the idea that this was key in dog domestication. The ancestral wolves that evolved into domestic dogs may have carried genetic mutations that made them socialise more readily with people. What’s more, the same genes cause excessive sociability in humans. It was already known that even if wolves have been raised with humans from birth, they never become as close to people or look at them as often as dogs tend to. Several years ago, Bridgett vonHoldt at Princeton University in New Jersey and her colleagues linked this “hypersociability” to a 28-gene stretch of the dog genome that includes canine versions of the genes responsible for Williams syndrome – a human disorder characterised by extreme sociability. However, they had no direct proof that these genes caused it. To find out whether they do, vonHoldt and her team tested the behaviour of 18 domestic dogs and 10 wolves, all of which had been raised identically with constant human contact. Each animal was scored for its hypersociability towards humans. As expected, the dogs scored higher than the wolves. The researchers then sequenced the key region of each animal’s genome in fine detail and searched for structural variations – deletions or insertions of genetic material – that seemed to match well with their social behaviour. They found four, including two in genes called GTF2I and GTF2IRD1. These genes are known to cause the hypersociability involved in Williams syndrome in humans, and GTF2I has also been shown to cause hypersociability in mice.
7-19-17 These genes may be why dogs are so friendly
These genes may be why dogs are so friendly
DNA differences among dogs and wolves hints at how canines came to live with humans. Dogs' friendliness to humans may be tied to tweaks in a few of the animal's genes. A new study examines how variations of these genes may have allowed for the domestication of dogs from wolves. DNA might reveal how dogs became man’s best friend. A new study shows that some of the same genes linked to the behavior of extremely social people can also make dogs friendlier. The result, published July 19 in Science Advances, suggests that dogs’ domestication may be the result of just a few genetic changes rather than hundreds or thousands of them. “It is great to see initial genetic evidence supporting the self-domestication hypothesis or ‘survival of the friendliest,’” says evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare of Duke University, who studies how dogs think and learn. “This is another piece of the puzzle suggesting that humans did not create dogs intentionally, but instead wolves that were friendliest toward humans were at an evolutionary advantage as our two species began to interact.” Not much is known about the underlying genetics of how dogs became domesticated. In 2010, evolutionary geneticist Bridgett vonHoldt of Princeton University and colleagues published a study comparing dogs’ and wolves’ DNA. The biggest genetic differences gave clues to why dogs and wolves don’t look the same. But major differences were also found in WBSCR17, a gene linked to Williams-Beuren syndrome in humans.
6-9-17 Dogs and wolves share sense of fair play
Dogs and wolves share sense of fair play
The sense of fair play is an important human trait, but new research suggests that it's a key behaviour for dogs and wolves as well. In tests, if one animal was given a more substantial reward when performing a task, the other one downed tools completely. It had been felt that this aversion to unfairness was something that dogs had learned from humans. But the tests with wolves suggest that this predates domestication of dogs. Scientists have long recognised that what they term a "sensitivity to inequity", or a sense of fairness, played an important role in the evolution of co-operation between humans. Basically, if others treated you badly, you quickly learned to stop working with them. Researchers believe that the behaviour is also found widely in non-human primates.
4-25-17 Family tree of dogs reveals secret history of canines
Family tree of dogs reveals secret history of canines
The largest family tree of dogs ever assembled shows how canines evolved into more than 150 modern breeds. Dogs were first selected and bred for their ability to perform tasks such as herding goats or cattle, say scientists. Later, they were selected for physical features such as their size or colour. The study also unearths evidence that some dogs are descended from an ancient breed that travelled with the ancestors of Native Americans into the Americas. Archaeological evidence points to the so-called "New World dog", which apparently crossed with human settlers over a land bridge from Asia. It had previously been thought that all signs of this ancient breed had been erased as dogs bred in Europe spread around the world. "We think there is still some signature of New World dog hiding in the genome of some of these American breeds," said co-researcher Heidi Parker of the National Institutes of Health, US. Modern hairless breeds such as the Peruvian hairless dog and the Mexican hairless dog are likely descended from this ancient dog.
3-10-17 Dogs use deception to get what they want from humans (a sausage)
Dogs use deception to get what they want from humans (a sausage)
Who needs enemies with friends like these? Human’s best friend can be sneaky and manipulative – and all for a tasty treat. Dogs are all honest, loyal and obedient, right? Well, not always. Our pets can be sneaky and manipulative when they want to maximise the number of tasty treats they get to eat. Marianne Heberlein, who studies dog cognition at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, wanted to test the animals’ ability to use deception to get what they want from humans. She got the idea to study doggie deception from watching her own dogs. One occasionally pretends to see something interesting in the backyard to trick the other into giving up the prime sleeping spot. “This sort of thing happens quite often, but it is not well studied,” she says. To see if dogs would deceive humans too, Heberlein and her colleagues paired various pooches with two partners – one who always gave the dog treats and another who always kept the treats.
2-10-17 Monkeys and dogs judge humans by how they treat others
Monkeys and dogs judge humans by how they treat others
Experiments show that both canines and capuchins prefer those of us who help other people, hinting that morality may have a more-ancient origin than thought. Be nice – or your dog may judge you. Both pets and monkeys show a preference for people who help others, and this might explain the origins of our sense of morality. Studies involving babies have previously shown that by the age of one, humans are already starting to judge people by how they interact. This has led to suggestions that children have a kind of innate morality that predates their being taught how to behave. Comparative psychologist James Anderson at Kyoto University and his colleagues wondered whether other species make social evaluations in a similar way. They began by testing whether capuchin monkeys would show a preference for people who help others. The capuchins watched an actor struggle to open a container with a toy inside. Then this actor presented the container to a second actor, who would either help or refuse to assist. Afterwards, both actors offered each capuchin food, and the monkey chose which offer to accept. When the companion was helpful, the monkey showed no preference between accepting the reward from the struggler or the helper. But when the companion refused to help, the monkey more often took food from the struggler.
2-9-17 'Dogs mirror owners' personalities'
'Dogs mirror owners' personalities'
The idea that a dog takes on the personality of its owner has received scientific support. Researchers in Austria say dogs can mirror the anxiety and negativity of owners. And dogs that are relaxed and friendly can pass this on to humans, perhaps helping their owners cope with stress. More than 100 dogs and their owners underwent various tests, including measurement of heart rate and their response to threat. Saliva samples were also taken to measure cortisol levels, a marker for stress. The owners were then assessed for the big five hallmarks of personality: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The personality of dogs was also assessed with a questionnaire. Dr Iris Schoberl, of the University of Vienna, said both owners and dogs influenced each other's coping mechanisms, with the human partner being more influential than the dog. "Our results nicely fit to experience from practice: owners and dogs are social dyads [a group of two], and they influence each other's stress coping," she told BBC News. She said dogs are sensitive to their owners' emotional states and may mirror their emotions. Dogs have lived alongside humans for more than 30,000 years. Evidence shows they can pick up emotional information from people and adjust their behaviour accordingly.
2-8-17 Why grey wolves kill less prey when brown bears are around
Why grey wolves kill less prey when brown bears are around
We’ve long assumed wolf packs are forced to kill more often to make up for having meals stolen by scavenging bears – but the opposite is true, they kill less. Wolves may be better at sharing their meals with bears than we thought. Biologists have long assumed that when wolves and brown bears share territory, the wolves are forced to kill more often to make up for the food stolen by scavenging bears. But when Aimee Tallian, a biologist at Utah State University, and her colleagues looked for evidence of this, they found the opposite. Where wolves live alongside bears in Scandinavia and Yellowstone National Park in the US, they actually kill less often. “People had this general assumption, because you do see lynx and mountain lions abandon their kills once a bear takes it over, but no one had really looked at this in wolves before,” she says. It’s not yet clear why this might be, but Tallian has a few theories.
11-10-16 Dog's dinner: DNA clue to how dogs became our friend
Dog's dinner: DNA clue to how dogs became our friend
Dogs have been dining on human food scraps since the early days of their domestication, it appears. Our canine companions developed the ability to digest starchy foods during the farming revolution thousands of years ago, according to DNA evidence. Scientists think dogs may have been domesticated from wolves when they came into settlements, scrounging for food. Modern dogs can tolerate starch-rich diets, unlike their wolf cousins, which are carnivores. A study of DNA extracted from the bones and teeth of ancient dogs at archaeological sites in Europe and Asia suggests their ability to eat starchy foods goes back millennia.
9-21-16 Vets warn people against buying 'flat-faced' dogs
Vets warn people against buying 'flat-faced' dogs
Vets are warning would-be dog owners to think twice before buying breeds with fashionably "flat-faced" features because of concerns over their welfare. Pugs, bulldogs, French bulldogs and shih-tzus have become sought-after in the UK, despite wide-ranging health problems. Their appeal is attributed to having "squashed" faces and wrinkled noses. The British Veterinary Association said the surge in popularity of these dogs had "increased animal suffering". Sean Wensley, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said: "Prospective owners need to consider that these dogs can suffer from a range of health problems, from eye ulcers to severe breathing difficulties. "We strongly encourage people to choose a healthier breed or a crossbreed instead." Webmaster's comment: The same is true for "flat-faced" cats. You may think they are cute but they suffer all the time. They also are less active and playful and less intelligent.)
9-9-16 How your dog understands you
How your dog understands you
Man’s best friend may understand us better than we thought. Groundbreaking new research has found that dogs process words and intonation using separate parts of the brain—the same way humans do, reports The Washington Post. Scientists trained 13 dogs of various breeds to lie still in an MRI machine. The pooches then listened to a trainer reciting positive phrases (such as “good dog”) as well as meaningless ones (like “however”), in both a neutral tone and a happy, “attaboy” tone. The scans showed that the dogs processed the meaningful words with the left side of their brain—the same hemisphere humans use to process language—and intonation with the right side. Furthermore, the canines’ dopamine “reward centers,” which respond to things like food or being petted, weren’t activated by meaningless phrases spoken in a positive tone of voice or by encouraging words spoken in a flat tone. “Dogs not only tell apart what we say and how we say it,” says Attila Andics, the study’s lead researcher, “but they can also combine the two, for a correct interpretation of what those words really mean.”
8-30-16 Dogs process language like us and can tell when we praise them
Dogs process language like us and can tell when we praise them
Brain scans have found that dogs use different parts of their brains to process speech, and can tell what words mean if we use the right tone. It turns out they really do understand some of what we are saying, processing both words and intonation to work out what we mean. Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary, and her team scanned the brains of dogs while they were listening to their trainer speaking. They found that, just like us, dogs use the left hemisphere of their brains to process words, while the intonation of speech is processed by the right hemisphere. The team tested the dogs by saying different words with various intonations – for example, a meaningless word spoken in an encouraging voice, or a meaningful word said in a neutral tone. They found that dogs only registered praise in the reward region of their brain if both positive words and encouraging intonation were used at the same time.
8-30-16 Dog brains divide language tasks much like humans do
Dog brains divide language tasks much like humans do
Meaning, intonation interpreted separately, study finds. To see how dogs process speech, these pooches were trained to undergo MRI brain scans. The results: Dogs are a lot like humans. Dogs process speech much like people do, a new study finds. Meaningful words like “good boy” activate the left side of a dog’s brain regardless of tone of voice, while a region on the right side of the brain responds to intonation, scientists report in the Sept. 2 Science. Similarly, humans process the meanings of words in the left hemisphere of the brain, and interpret intonation in the right hemisphere. That lets people sort out words that convey meaning from random sounds that don’t. But it has been unclear whether language abilities were a prerequisite for that division of brain labor, says neuroscientist Attila Andics of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.
5-20-16 Dog risked his life to protect his family
Dog risked his life to protect his family
Just two months after Haus the German shepherd was adopted from an animal shelter, the 2-year-old rescue dog risked his life to protect his new family. Molly DeLuca, 7, was playing in her backyard in Tampa last week when a venomous Eastern diamondback rattlesnake slithered up. The heroic dog leaped in front of the girl, barking and snapping at the snake. Haus got three painful bites and is still recovering in the ICU, but strangers have donated more than $50,000 to cover the huge vet bills. “He was willing to give his life for our family,” said Molly’s mom, Donya.
3-30-16 Girl trains dog, Pip, to 'sniff out' diabetes dange
Girl trains dog, Pip, to 'sniff out' diabetes dange
A 13-year-old girl with diabetes says she has taught her dog, Pip, to sniff out changes in her blood sugar levels. Katie Gregson, from St Anne's in Lancashire has type 1 diabetes, which can be dangerous and needs to be closely managed. Pip's strong sense of smell can help detect when Katie's glucose levels fall below or creep above critical levels.
3-28-16 Why some male hyenas leave and others are content to stay home
Why some male hyenas leave and others are content to stay home
Males that stay with their birth clan, instead of taking off to join a new group, may simply be making a good choice, a new study suggests. Spotted hyenas are a matriarchal society. Females are in charge. They rank higher than every male in the clan. And the females generally stay with the clan for their entire lives. But males face a choice when they reach two and a half years in age. They can stay with the clan, or they can leave and join a new clan.
12-23-15 Canine copycats can mirror other dogs' emotions
Canine copycats can mirror other dogs' emotions
Dogs can copy each other's expressions in a split-second just like people, showing signs of basic empathy, according to Italian researchers. Mimicking each other's facial expressions is a human habit, which helps people to get along. Dogs do the same to bond with other dogs, scientists report in the journal, Royal Society Open Science. They think dogs may be showing a basic built-in form of empathy, enabling them to pick up on emotions. And the phenomenon may have emerged in our canine companions during the process of domestication, say scientists from the Natural History Museum, University of Pisa.
9-16-15 Have we turned dogs into lazy thinkers through domestication?
Have we turned dogs into lazy thinkers through domestication?
Faced with puzzles with food rewards dogs give up and defer to humans much more than wolves, who persevere until they solve the puzzle. Perhaps this is why our dogs are so happy to see us. When faced with a puzzle to solve for a treat, they give up and defer to humans for help, unlike their wild cousins, wolves. So are dogs just servile beasts whose dependence on humans has made them dumber and lazier than wolves? Or is it a sign of their high social intelligence? Eight out of 10 wolves were able to open the box but only One out of 20 dogs succeeded. Most declined to attempt the task and instead looked to humans for guidance. “Wolves spent almost all of their time engaged on the task trying to get the puzzle open, and dogs spent almost none. That was a pretty striking difference,” says Udell.
6-18-15 Team of hyenas works together to steal fresh carcass from lions
Team of hyenas works together to steal fresh carcass from lions
Most animals wouldn't confront a fearsome predator like a lion. But through sophisticated group work, hyenas launch successful raids. The mobbing involves a surprising degree of cooperation and communication. Male lions, which actively pursue and kill hyenas, are much more of a danger than females, who usually just make threats. This could be why the hyenas generally confront females. The team suggests the hyenas can identify their opponent's age and sex before deciding as a group whether or not to mob it.
6-5-15 Monkeys' cosy alliance with wolves looks like domestication
Monkeys' cosy alliance with wolves looks like domestication
Troops of gelada monkeys in Ethiopia are unfazed by wolves wandering through to hunt rodents, but is one domesticating the other just as humans did with dogs? In the alpine grasslands of eastern Africa, Ethiopian wolves and gelada monkey are giving peace a chance. The geladas – a type of a baboon – tolerate wolves wandering right through the middle of their troops, while the wolves ignore potential meals of baby geladas in favour of rodents, which they can catch more easily when the monkeys are present. The unusual pact echoes the way dogs began to be domesticated by humans.
3-7-15 Frankie the dog 'sniffs out thyroid cancer'
Frankie the dog 'sniffs out thyroid cancer'
A dog has been used to sniff out thyroid cancer in people who had not yet been diagnosed, US researchers say. Tests on 34 patients showed an 88% success rate in finding tumours. The team, presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, said the animal had an "unbelievable" sense of smell. Dogs have over 40 times the number of smell receptors as people.
2-20-15 Dogs can tell if you're untrustworthy
Dogs can tell if you're untrustworthy
Dogs are not fooled for long by misleading cues, and stop responding to people who have proven unreliable. They are very socially aware, both of humans and of each other. Recent research has found that they can tell the difference between happy and angry faces, and even show jealousy. It now seems that they can sense when a person is untrustworthy. Once a dog has decided a person is unreliable, it stops following the cues they give.
2-12-15 Dogs 'can tell difference between happy and angry faces'
Dogs 'can tell difference between happy and angry faces'
Research is now suggesting something dog-lovers have long suspected - man's best friend can tell the difference between our happy and angry faces. The team tested whether dogs could differentiate between human facial expressions.
1-17-15 Join The Conversation
Join The Conversation
New ways to decode animal chatter reveal a lot about what they are saying by Hal Hadson (Webmaster's comment: It's obvious that animals of the same species talk to each other. We just don't understand their language anymore than most of them understand ours. But some animals do a much better job of understanding our language than we do of theirs. Some dogs understand over 600 human words. Our arrogance seems to get in our way. Also see:
Scandinavian scientists develop dog 'translator'
A group of inventors in Sweden and Finland claims to be close to developing a dog-to-English translator.)
12-23-14 Meeting a wild wolf pack
Meeting a wild wolf pack
Ellesmere Island is one of the most remote and beautiful places on Earth. This is the only place in the world where wolves are naive to man and have no fear. It allowed wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan and scientists an unparalleled opportunity to form bonds with a wild wolf family, revealing the remarkable story of their relationships and behaviour.
11-26-14 Dog head-turning shows they do understand what you say
Dog head-turning shows they do understand what you say
YOU'RE just so right-sided. The left hemisphere of our brains seems to tune into the phonemes in speech that combine to form words, and the right hemisphere focuses on the rhythm and intonation of words, which can carry emotional information. Animals may do the same when processing sounds of their own species, and perhaps even when hearing humans speak.
9-9-14 Are dolphins cleverer than dogs?
Are dolphins cleverer than dogs?
For decades now, dolphins and dogs have vied for the title of most intelligent animal. But which is actually cleverer, and can the two even be compared?
8-26-14 'Two simple rules' explain sheepdog behaviour
'Two simple rules' explain sheepdog behaviour
The relationship between a shepherd and his sheepdog has always seemed almost magical, but scientists now say it can be explained by two simple rules. The first rule: The sheepdog learns how to make the sheep come together in a flock. The second rule: Whenever the sheep are in a tightly knit group, the dog pushes them forwards.
7-23-14 Jealous wags: Dogs show envy is 'primordial' emotion
Jealous wags: Dogs show envy is 'primordial' emotion
Jealousy is not just a human condition according to researchers, as it appears to be hard wired into the brains of dogs as well.
2-26-14 Dog brains respond to calls just like human brains
Dog brains respond to calls just like human brains
Paws for thought: dogs respond to calls just like us
2-20-14 Dogs' brain scans reveal vocal responses
Dogs' brain scans reveal vocal responses
Devoted dog owners often claim that their pets understand them. A new study suggests they could be right.
12-21-13 Scandinavian scientists develop dog 'translator'
Scandinavian scientists develop dog 'translator'
A group of inventors in Sweden and Finland claims to be close to developing a dog-to-English translator.
10-31-13 Scientists decipher dog-tail wags
Scientists decipher dog-tail wags
Scientists have shed more light on how the movements of a dog's tail are linked to its mood.
2-11-13 Dogs understand human perspective, say researchers
Dogs understand human perspective, say researchers
Dogs are more capable of understanding situations from a human's point of view than has previously been recognized, according to researchers.
12-7-07 Animals Do the Cleverest Things
Animals Do the Cleverest Things
The chimp who outwits humans; the dolphin who says it with seaweed; the existential dog -- the more we learn about other animals the harder it is to say we're the smartest species.
Living With Wolves - and Wolves at Our Doors
Radioactive Wolves - Chernobyl's Nuclear Wilderness
Clash - Encounters of Bears and Wolves
David Attenborough Wildlife Specials - Wolf: Legendary Outlaw
Ultimate Nature Collection One - Wolves: A Legend Returns to Yellowstone
Ultimate Nature Collection Two - The Rise of Black Wolf
World's Last Great Places Collection - Yellowstone: Realm of the Coyote
Ultimate Nature Collection One - Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas
The Wildlife Collection - Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas
Inside Animal Minds - Dogs & Super Senses
How Smart Are Animals? - How Smart Are Dogs?
Dogs Decoded - Understanding The Human-Dog Relationship
Why We Love Cats and Dogs - Take an intimate look into the cherished bond between people and their pets.
Inside Animal Minds - A Dog with a World-class Vocabulary. Border Collie: Retains an ever growing vocabulary that rivals a toddler's.
How Dogs Think - Understanding the Canine Mind
Dogs Never Lie About Love - Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs
If Your Dog Could Talk - A Training Guide For Humans
Designing the Perfect Pet -Can a Fox Become Man's Best Friend?
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The Intelligence of Wolves
Wolves are better problem solvers than Dogs.
Probably because Dogs have been breed to be dependent.