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Ernstbrunn, Austria

Cafazzo S.,University of Parma | Cafazzo S.,Wolf Science Center | Bonanni R.,University of Parma | Valsecchi P.,University of Parma | Natoli E.,Azienda USL Rome D
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Mating and reproductive outcome is often determined by the simultaneous operation of different mechanisms like intrasexual competition, mating preferences and sexual coercion. The present study investigated how social variables affected mating outcome in a pack of free-ranging dogs, a species supposed to have lost most features of the social system of wolves during domestication. We found that, although the pack comprised multiple breeding individuals, both male copulation success and female reproductive success were positively influenced by a linear combination of dominance rank, age and leadership. Our results also suggest that mate preferences affect mating outcome by reinforcing the success of most dominant individuals. In particular, during their oestrous period bitches clearly searched for the proximity of high-ranking males who displayed affiliative behaviour towards them, while they were more likely to reject the males who intimidated them. At the same time, male courting effort and male-male competition for receptive females appeared to be stronger in the presence of higher-ranking females, suggesting a male preference for dominant females. To our knowledge, these results provide the first clear evidence of social regulation of reproductive activities in domestic dogs, and suggest that some common organizing mechanisms may contribute to shape the social organization of both dogs and wolves. © 2014 Cafazzo et al. Source

Marshall-Pescini S.,University of Milan | Marshall-Pescini S.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | Marshall-Pescini S.,Wolf Science Center | Ceretta M.,University of Milan | Prato-Previde E.,University of Milan
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Understanding of other's actions as goal-directed is considered a fundamental ability underlying cognitive and social development in human infants. A number of studies using the habituation-dishabituation paradigm have shown that the ability to discern intentional relations, in terms of goal-directedness of an action towards an object, appears around 5 months of age. The question of whether non-human species can perceive other's actions as goal-directed has been more controversial, however there is mounting evidence that at least some primates species do. Recently domestic dogs have been shown to be particularly sensitive to human communicative cues and more so in cooperative and intentional contexts. Furthermore, they have been shown to imitate selectively. Taken together these results suggest that dogs may perceive others' actions as goal-directed, however no study has investigated this issue directly. In the current study, adopting an infant habituation-dishabituation paradigm, we investigated whether dogs attribute intentions to an animate (a human) but not an inanimate (a black box) agent interacting with an object. Following an habituation phase in which the agent interacted always with one of two objects, two sets of 3 trials were presented: new side trials (in which the agent interacted with the same object as in the habituation trial but placed in a novel location) and new goal trials (in which the agent interacted with the other object placed in the old location). Dogs showed a similar pattern of response to that shown in infants, looking longer in the new goal than new side trials when they saw the human agent interact with the object. No such difference emerging with the inanimate agent (the black box). Results provide the first evidence that a non-primate species can perceive another individual's actions as goal-directed. We discuss results in terms of the prevailing mentalisitic and non-mentalistic hypotheses regarding goal-attribution. © 2014 PLOS ONE. Source

Range F.,Medical University of Vienna | Range F.,Wolf Science Center | Viranyi Z.,Medical University of Vienna | Viranyi Z.,Wolf Science Center
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Domestication is thought to have influenced the cognitive abilities of dogs underlying their communication with humans, but little is known about its effect on their interactions with conspecifics. Since domestication hypotheses offer limited predictions in regard to wolf-wolf compared to dog-dog interactions, we extend the cooperative breeding hypothesis suggesting that the dependency of wolves on close cooperation with conspecifics, including breeding but also territory defense and hunting, has created selection pressures on motivational and cognitive processes enhancing their propensity to pay close attention to conspecifics' actions. During domestication, dogs' dependency on conspecifics has been relaxed, leading to reduced motivational and cognitive abilities to interact with conspecifics. Here we show that 6-month-old wolves outperform same aged dogs in a two-action-imitation task following a conspecific demonstration. While the wolves readily opened the apparatus after a demonstration, the dogs failed to solve the problem. This difference could not be explained by differential motivation, better physical insight of wolves, differential developmental pathways of wolves and dogs or a higher dependency of dogs from humans. Our results are best explained by the hypothesis that higher cooperativeness may come together with a higher propensity to pay close attention to detailed actions of others and offer an alternative perspective to domestication by emphasizing the cooperativeness of wolves as a potential source of dog-human cooperation. © 2014 Range, Virányi. Source

Range F.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | Range F.,Wolf Science Center | Viranyi Z.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | Viranyi Z.,Wolf Science Center
Frontiers in Psychology | Year: 2013

Most domestication hypotheses propose that dogs have been selected for enhanced communication and interactions with humans, including learning socially from human demonstrators. However, to what extent these skills are newly derived and to what extent they originate from wolf-wolf interactions is unclear. In order to test for the possible origins of dog social cognition, we need to compare the interactions of wolves and dogs with humans and with conspecifics. Here, we tested identically raised and kept juvenile wolves and dogs in a social learning task with human and conspecific demonstrators. Using a local enhancement task, we found that both wolves and dogs benefitted from a demonstration independent of the demonstrator species in comparison to a control, no demonstration condition. Interestingly, if the demonstrator only pretended to hide food at the target location, wolves and dogs reacted differently: while dogs differentiated between this without-food and with-food demonstration independent of the demonstrator species, wolves only did so in case of human demonstrators. We attribute this finding to wolves being more attentive toward behavioral details of the conspecific models than the dogs: although the demonstrator dogs were trained to execute the demonstration, they disliked the food reward, which might have decreased the interest of the wolves in finding the food reward. Overall, these results suggest that dogs but also wolves can use information provided by both human and conspecific demonstrators in a local enhancement task. Therefore we suggest that a more fine-scale analysis of dog and wolf social learning is needed to determine the effects of domestication. © 2013 Range and Virányi. Source

Mazzini F.,University of Parma | Mazzini F.,Wolf Science Center | Townsend S.W.,Wolf Science Center | Townsend S.W.,University of Zurich | And 4 more authors.
Current Biology | Year: 2013

While considerable research has addressed the function of animal vocalizations, the proximate mechanisms driving call production remain surprisingly unclear. Vocalizations may be driven by emotions and the physiological state evoked by changes in the social-ecological environment [1, 2], or animals may have more control over their vocalizations, using them in flexible ways mediated by the animal's understanding of its surrounding social world [3, 4]. While both explanations are plausible and neither excludes the other, to date no study has attempted to experimentally investigate the influence of both emotional and cognitive factors on animal vocal usage. We aimed to disentangle the relative contribution of both mechanisms by examining howling in captive wolves. Using a separation experiment and by measuring cortisol levels, we specifically investigated whether howling is a physiological stress response to group fragmentation [5] and whether it is driven by social factors, particularly relationship quality [6, 7]. Results showed that relationship quality between the howler and the leaving individual better predicted howling than did the current physiological state. Our findings shed important light on the degree to which animal vocal production can be considered as voluntary. Video Abstract © 2013 The Authors. Source

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