Main content area

Piloting a new prosociality paradigm in dogs and wolves: The location choice task

Dale, Rachel, Despraz, Marie-Noémie, Marshall-Pescini, Sarah, Range, Friederike
Behavioural processes 2019 v.162 pp. 79-85
Canis lupus, Primates, byproducts, dogs, domestication, humans, wolves
The aim of this pilot study was to investigate whether or not dogs (Canis familiaris) and wolves (Canis lupus) show prosociality in a simple T-maze experiment based on a previous study by Hernandez-Lallement et al. (2015). Prosociality, i.e. “voluntary behaviour that benefits others”, was initially thought to be uniquely human and, to trace its origin, has mainly been investigated in non-human primates. More recently however, some non-primate species showed considerable amounts of prosociality, suggesting convergent evolutionary paths. Here we tested if wolves and dogs are prosocial in a novel paradigm and, secondly, whether prosociality in dogs is a by-product of domestication or an ancestral trait shared with wolves. With the exception of one wolf, the current task did not reveal a prosocial response in either species, despite the same subjects showing prosocial tendencies in other tasks. Prosociality has been difficult to experimentally observe and it presents a methodological challenge. We are still at the beginning of this journey in Canids and this study adds another piece to the puzzle of how best to investigate this behaviour.