Dogs are more hierarchical than wolves

Date: 24 October 2017

Introduction: Herwig Leirs was interviewed in the newspaper "Gazet van Antwerpen", to provide background to a new study on cooperation in groups of wolves and dogs.

In the Wolf Science Center in Vienna, scientists let both wolves and dogs execute a rope-pulling test. The animals only received a reward if they cooperated, by pulling at the same time both ends of the rope. The wolves were much more efficient at cooperating than the dogs, and received a reward 50 times as often compared to the dogs.

Herwig Leirs (Global Change Ecology Centre, research group Evolutionary Ecology) indicates in the interview in Gazet van Antwerpen (Saturday 21st of October) that this does not imply that wolves are more social than dogs. Herwig: “The experiment in Vienna shows that dogs fail to cooperate, while wolves are much more capable at cooperation. The research does not show that wolves are more social than dogs. Being social animals and being cooperative is not the same. The hypothesis is that dogs are too friendly. Dogs let other dogs pull the rope first, while the wolves enter into a scramble to be able to pull the rope first. As a result, the wolves discover much more quickly that cooperation results in a reward. Other research has shown that dogs are much more hierarchically structured than wolves. Dogs monopolize: this is mine and no one else can touch it. This makes cooperation more difficult.”