Differences in problem-solving between canid populations: Do domestication and lifetime experience affect persistence?
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Past research has suggested that a variety of factors, phylogenetic and ontogenetic, play a role in how canines behave during problem-solving tasks and the degree to which the presence of a human influences their problem-solving behaviour. While comparisons between socialized wolves and domestic dogs have commonly been used to tease apart these predictive factors, in many cases a single dog population, often pets, have been used for these comparisons. Less is understood about how different populations of dogs may behave when compared with wolves, or with each other, during an independent problem-solving task. This experiment compared the independent persistence of four populations of canines (two groups of pet domestic dogs, a group of free-ranging domestic dogs, and human-socialized wolves) on an independent problem-solving task in the presence of an on looking human. Results showed that wolves persisted the most at the task while free-ranging dogs persisted the least. Free-ranging dogs gazed at the human experimenter for the longest durations during the task. While further research is needed to understand why these differences exist, this study demonstrates that dogs, even those living outside human homes as scavengers, show comparatively low levels of persistence when confronted with a solvable task in the presence of a human as well as significantly greater duration of human-directed gaze when compared with wolves.
KeywordsCanines Problem-solving Persistence Dogs
We are grateful to the dogs and dog owners who volunteered their time for this study. We would also like to thank Wolf Park, especially manager Dana Drenzek and assistant curator Brian Gaston for their help with this study, Giovanna Rosenlicht, Kristyn Shreve, Lauren Thielke, Shelby Wanser, Helen Dillman, and other members of the HAI laboratory who assisted with data collection, coding, and analysis. We would like to give special thanks to the Oregon State University Graduate School and Animal Science Department, and the Department of Science and Technology at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata for supporting this research.
Compliance with ethical standards
All owned subjects were volunteered by their owners or caretakers and remained in their care for the duration of the study. All free-ranging dogs were tested in their home environment. Owners were not asked to food deprive their dogs or engage in any other activity that might compromise their well-being and were free to withdraw their animal at any time (something that never happened). All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of Oregon State University and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research and with the laws of the USA and of India. This study was approved by the Oregon State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, ACUP #4444.
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