Tag: Frontiers in Science

It’s all in the eyes!

What makes a dog a dog and a wolf a wolf?

I can’t recall why it was many months ago that I came across the website of Frontiers in Science. But I did and, in particular, I came across a fundamental difference between the two species.  In an article entitled: A simple reason for a big difference: wolves do not look back at humans, but dogs do. I’m going to take a chance, as in not having formal permission to republish it, in reposting it in full here.  Because it means so much to me and other dog lovers!

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A simple reason for a big difference: wolves do not look back at humans, but dogs do.

Adám Miklósi, Enikö Kubinyi, József Topál, Márta Gácsi, Zsófia Virányi and Vilmos Csányi
Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Pázmány P. 1c, 1117, Hungary. miklosa@ludens.elte.hu

The present investigations were undertaken to compare interspecific communicative abilities of dogs and wolves, which were socialized to humans at comparable levels. The first study demonstrated that socialized wolves were able to locate the place of hidden food indicated by the touching and, to some extent, pointing cues provided by the familiar human experimenter, but their performance remained inferior to that of dogs. In the second study, we have found that, after undergoing training to solve a simple manipulation task, dogs that are faced with an insoluble version of the same problem look/gaze at the human, while socialized wolves do not. Based on these observations, we suggest that the key difference between dog and wolf behavior is the dogs’ ability to look at the human’s face. Since looking behavior has an important function in initializing and maintaining communicative interaction in human communication systems, we suppose that by positive feedback processes (both evolutionary and ontogenetically) the readiness of dogs to look at the human face has lead to complex forms of dog-human communication that cannot be achieved in wolves even after extended socialization.

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Actually, that article from the Department of Ethology at Eötvös University in Budapest is just an excuse for me to post three photographs confirming the good scientists results!

Young Cleo, May 12th, 2012.
Young Cleo, May 12th, 2012.

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Mr Pharaoh's look from June, 2007.
Mr Pharaoh’s look from June, 2007.

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The second Cleo look from May, 2012.
The second Cleo look from May, 2012.

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There’s no question in my mind that millions of dog lovers across the world know the intimacy that is conveyed in a dog’s eyes!