Tag: Friederike Range

The wolf in our dogs.

Or is it the other way around?

A fascinating article about the domestication of the wolf to the domesticated dog appeared on the BBC back in March.

It was, in turn, based on a report issued by Nature and makes interesting reading. But for the shorter version, read on:


Study reveals the wolf within your pet dog

By Helen Briggs, BBC News, Science and Environment
14 March 2019

Scientists say the negative image of wolves is not always justified. Getty Images.

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.

Scientific Reports published the study.

FRIEDERIKE RANGE/VETMEDUNI VIENNA Dogs were more likely to follow human behaviour
FRIEDERIKE RANGE/VETMEDUNI VIENNA.Wolves were equally able to cooperate with humans but also took the lead

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.

Follow Helen on Twitter.


Now it seems no better way to end today’s post than by selecting a short Nat Geo video to watch. (Out of many videos on YouTube regarding wolves.)

Wonderful animals.

Friendship between dogs.

A remarkable report about how dogs share.

Apologies for the short intro but my internet connection is still not 100% and I didn’t want to fuss around and lose the window in which to present this fascinating article on ScienceAlert sent to me by Dan Gomez.



Dogs give food to their ‘friends’ in first-of-its-kind study

Treats for everybody! But more for pals.

Voluntary acts of kindness and positive outward gestures without thought of reward are two of the more redeeming aspects of human society, but to what extent do these prosocial behaviours exist in other animals?

A new study by researchers in Austria suggests that dogs are prosocial among their own kind too, with an experiment involving the voluntary offering of food between the animals showing that dogs also understand the concept of giving.

“Dogs and their nearest relatives, the wolves, exhibit social and cooperative behaviour, so there are grounds to assume that these animals also behave prosocially toward conspecifics,” said Friederike Range, an ethnologist at the Messerli Research Institute. “Additionally, over thousands of years of domestication, dogs were selected for special social skills.”

But measuring prosocial behaviour in dogs isn’t easy, says Range, because they’re so very social with humans. It can be difficult to tell between seemingly prosocial acts and behaviours that could actually just be the dog obediently reacting to cues and unintended communications from researchers.

So to take people out of the equation as much as possible, Range and his colleagues conducted an experiment where two dogs were set up by themselves in cages side by side. One of the dogs, called the donor dog, had the ability to extend one of two trays toward a receiver dog, using its mouth to pull on a string.

One of these trays contained a treat, while the other was empty. The dogs had been trained over weeks to understand how the tray-pulling system worked, and the donor dog in each instance knew that it would receive nothing itself if it gave the treat to its fellow canine (other than the pleasure perhaps of knowing it had done a kindness to its counterpart).

The researchers found that dogs, in the absence of any ulterior motive, do indeed exhibit prosocial behaviour, by voluntarily giving food to other dogs. But, having said that, they can be accused of preferential treatment.

“Dogs truly behave prosocially toward other dogs. That had never been experimentally demonstrated before,” said Range. “What we also found was that the degree of familiarity among the dogs further influenced this behaviour. Prosocial behaviour was exhibited less frequently toward unfamiliar dogs than toward familiar ones.”

In other words, dogs look out for their friends more than they do random strangers, but the same could be said of our own prosocial behaviour. Humans have the capacity for kindness, but we demonstrate it more frequently with those with which we are more familiar.

The findings are reported in Scientific Reports, but now that we know dogs are prosocial, that of course means there are other puzzles for the researchers to solve. Why do dogs act this way? Is it a result of domestication, their cognitive complexity, or has it been shaped by the species’ reliance on cooperative activities, such as foraging together? As dog lovers, we can’t wait to hear the answers.


What amazing creatures they are!

Dogs and wolves – fascinating research.

Something new to learn every day!

I have been saving this report for a few weeks.  Following yesterday’s great news about the latest concerning wolves in Oregon, today seemed a perfect follow-on with a report first published in online journal PLOS ONE. However, what follows is a full republication of the report as I read it on the Science Daily website.


Teaching young wolves new tricks: Wolves are considerably better imitators than dogs

Date: January 31, 2014

Source: Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

Summary: Although wolves and dogs are closely related, they show some striking differences. Scientists have undertaken experiments that suggest that wolves observe one another more closely than dogs and so are better at learning from one another. The scientists believe that cooperation among wolves is the basis of the understanding between dogs and humans.

Wolves are considerably better imitators than dogs. Credit: Walter Vorbeck
Wolves are considerably better imitators than dogs.
Credit: Walter Vorbeck

Although wolves and dogs are closely related, they show some striking differences. Scientists from the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have undertaken experiments that suggest that wolves observe one another more closely than dogs and so are better at learning from one another. The scientists believe that cooperation among wolves is the basis of the understanding between dogs and humans.

Their findings have been published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

Wolves were domesticated more than 15,000 years ago and it is widely assumed that the ability of domestic dogs to form close relationships with humans stems from changes during the domestication process. But the effects of domestication on the interactions between the animals have not received much attention. The point has been addressed by Friederike Range and Zsófia Virányi, two members of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna) who work at the Wolf Science Center (WSC) in Ernstbrunn, Niederösterreich.

Wolves copy other wolves solving problems

The scientists found that wolves are considerably better than dogs at opening a container, providing they have previously watched another animal do so. Their study involved 14 wolves and 15 mongrel dogs, all about six months old, hand-reared and kept in packs. Each animal was allowed to observe one of two situations in which a trained dog opened a wooden box, either with its mouth or with its paw, to gain access to a food reward. Surprisingly, all of the wolves managed to open the box after watching a dog solve the puzzle, while only four of the dogs managed to do so. Wolves more frequently opened the box using the method they had observed, whereas the dogs appeared to choose randomly whether to use their mouth or their paw.

Watch closely …

To exclude the possibility that six-month old dogs fail the experiment because of a delayed physical or cognitive development, the researchers repeated the test after nine months. The dogs proved no more adept at opening the box than they were at a younger age. Another possible explanation for the wolves’ apparent superiority at learning is that wolves might simply be better than dogs at solving such problems. To test this idea, the researchers examined the animals’ ability to open a box without prior demonstration by a dog. They found that the wolves were rarely successful. “Their problem-solving capability really seems to be based on the observation of a dog performing the task,” says Range. “The wolves watched the dog very closely and were able to apply their new knowledge to solve the problem. Their skill at copying probably relates to the fact that wolves are more dependent on cooperation with conspecifics than dogs are and therefore pay more attention to the actions of their partners.”

The researchers think that it is likely that the dog-human cooperation originated from cooperation between wolves. During the process of domestication, dogs have become able to accept humans as social partners and thus have adapted their social skills to include interactions with them, concomitantly losing the ability to learn by watching other dogs.


Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Veterinärmedizinische Universität WienNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Friederike Range, Zsófia Virányi. Wolves Are Better Imitators of Conspecifics than DogsPLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (1): e86559 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086559


So if you, like me, are one of many people who believe that your dog knows what you are thinking, then we need to thank the wolf!

Dogs ‘copy’ their owners

More evidence that shows there’s more to dogs than we realise.

Earlier on this year, a series of Posts was published on Learning from Dogs based on a science programme on the BBC (BBC Horizon) that revealed the degree of sophistication that is inherent in these clever animals.

This is the link to that article.  Unfortunately the YouTube videos have now been removed but there are some clips available on the BBC website here.  As the programme was introduced:

We have an extraordinary relationship with dogs – closer than with any other animal on the planet. But what makes the bond between us so special?

Research into dogs is gaining momentum, and scientists are investigating them like never before. From the latest fossil evidence, to the sequencing of the canine genome, to cognitive experiments, dogs are fast turning into the new chimps as a window into understanding ourselves.

Anyway, all this is a lead in to an item on the news today regarding a study into dogs by the University of Vienna.

Dogs “automatically imitate” the body movements of their owners, according to a study.

This automatic imitation is a crucial part of social learning in humans.

But Austrian researchers report that the phenomenon – where the sight of another’s body movement causes the observer to move in the same way – is evident in many other animals.

They say that it reveals clues about how this type of learning evolved.

The study, which was led by Dr Friederike Range from the University of Vienna in Austria, also suggests that the way in which people interact with and play with their dogs as they are growing up shapes their ability to imitate.

The phenomenon under investigation is known as "selective imitation" and implies that dogs -- like human infants -- do not simply copy an action they observe, but adjust the extent to which they imitate to the circumstances of the action. (Credit: iStockphoto/David Brimm)

There’s more to the news release on Science Daily from which is quoted:

New research by Friederike Range and Ludwig Huber, of the University of Vienna, and Zsofia Viranyi, of the Eötvös University in Budapest, reveals striking similarities between humans and dogs in the way they imitate the actions of others. The phenomenon under investigation is known as “selective imitation” and implies that dogs–like human infants–do not simply copy an action they observe, but adjust the extent to which they imitate to the circumstances of the action.

By Paul Handover