A Moment of Science

Dogs versus Wolves

I'm not saying dogs weren't intelligent creatures in their distant past, before they were domesticated, but now wolves are much smarter than dogs.

baby_wolf

Photo: Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

In an experiment, graduate students studying animal behavior were given either a puppy or a wolf cub to raise.

Who’s the smartest dog in the whole wide world?

Any animal that will do exactly what you tell it to do isn’t very smart. I’m not saying dogs weren’t intelligent creatures in their distant past, before they were domesticated, but now wolves are much smarter than dogs.

It’s true that in a test a wolf will perform whatever task necessary to get to a piece of meat, whereas a dog, if in the presence of its owner, will typically wait for permission. However, that doesn’t mean that wolves are smarter than dogs. A dog’s attentiveness to its owner might be an important kind of intelligence.

In an experiment, graduate students studying animal behavior were given either a puppy or a wolf cub to raise. Several months later, the animals were offered a piece of meat, but to get to it, they had to pull a rope to remove the meat from under a cage. Both the dogs and the wolves mastered this task without trouble. The rope was then anchored, so that retrieving the meat was impossible. The wolves pulled at the rope until they were exhausted. The dogs, however, gave up after a few tries and looked to their caregivers for help.

It shows that dogs have an innate ability and motivation to communicate with humans in finding food. They’re as interested in eating as wolves are, but they seem to understand that paying attention to humans can help them get what they want.

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