The science around dog behavior is growing all the time. One of the most exciting areas of enquiry is in comparing domestic dogs with wild canids, to try to get a glimpse into how dogs have diverged and specialized because of human involvement in their lives. That’s what Kathryn Lord, PhD, will be talking about on Saturday afternoon at IAABC 2017. Her synopsis is below:
Wolves hunt sheep, while some dogs herd them and still others guard them and yet dogs’ and wolves’ genomes differ by only 0.2%. So what accounts for these large behavioral differences? It has long been hypothesized that these difference in behavioral expression is due to a change in the timing of the onset of motor patterns (units of behavior), during early play. The aim of this study was to characterize and compare the development of foraging motor patterns in wolves and two breeds of dogs selected for different modifications of the adult wolf foraging behavior (Border collies and schutzhund German shepherds).
The frequency of the adult foraging motor patterns including “orient”, “eye”, “stalk”, “chase” and “grab-bite” were recorded in 11 wolves, 13 Border collies and 28 German shepherds from two to eight weeks of age. The onset, frequency, and sequencing of each motor pattern over the seven-week period was compared across wolves, border collies and German shepherds.
The results demonstrate that the timing of onset of adult motor patterns varies between dogs and wolves. However, this variation alone does not fully explain the behavioral differences we see between dog breeds. The data suggest that environment also plays an important role in the development of species-typical behavior.