Does your dog see you as a tool? Is he right?
At least that’s how your dog sees you, says Scientific American.
Unlike their wolfish ancestors, who hunted for their food, domestic dogs have become socially attached to humans, and see us as the route to dinner. Hence, those long, soulful – and, we must insist, no matter what scientists say, loving – stares we get when feeding time comes near.
To which we, being tools, generally respond.
Scientific American takes a look at how wolves and dogs have come to differ — when it comes to the source of dinner and more — in the 15,000 or more years since the domestic dog came into being.
The article focuses on a study done several years ago at Eotvos University in Budapest — aimed at determining whether the differences between dogs and wolves, socially and cognitively, were primarily genetic or experiential.
Scientists hand-raised a group of dog puppies and a group of wolf pups, starting six days after they were born.
For the first months of their lives, the wolf and dog pups were in close contact with human foster parents. They lived in the homes of their caregivers and slept with them at night. They were bottle-fed, and then hand-fed, and the human caregivers carried them in a pouch so that both wolf and dog pups could participate in as much of their daily activities as possible.
Both dogs and wolves traveled on public transportation, attended classes, and had extensive experience meeting unfamiliar humans.
At 9 weeks of age, plates of food were shown to both the wolf and dog pups. But the only way either could get it was to have eye contact with the human experimenters.
After the first minute, the dogs began to look at the humans. The wolves never seemed to catch on, staying focused on the food they couldn’t reach.
“In one sense, this is a remarkable example of tool use. Only in this case, the humans were the tools, and the dogs the tool-users,” the article notes.
In a second experiment, involving opening a bin, dogs spontaneously interacted with humans, while the wolves all but ignored the human caregivers.
“Despite the fact that they had been fully socialized, the wolves treated each of the situations as physical problems rather than social ones. Only rarely did they ever attempt to engage in a communicative problem-solving interaction with a human. It’s not that wolves are unintelligent; it’s quite the opposite, in fact. Wolves are cooperative hunters, skilled at negotiating within their own social networks. It’s just that even after being raised by humans, wolves simply do not see humans as potential social partners.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 1st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, behavior, cognitive, differences, dog, dogs, domesticated, domestication, experiment, feeding, food, genetics, humans, hunting, interaction, nurture, partners, pets, science, scientific american, social, socialization, society, tool, wolf, wolves