Cooperative communication with humans evolved to emerge early in domestic dogs

  • Hannah Salomons (Contributor)
  • Kyle C.M. Smith (Contributor)
  • Megan Callahan-Beckel (Contributor)
  • Margaret Callahan (Contributor)
  • Kerinne M. Levy (Contributor)
  • Brenda S. Kennedy (Contributor)
  • Emily E. Bray (Contributor)
  • Gitanjali E. Gnanadesikan (Contributor)
  • Daniel J. Horschler (Contributor)
  • Margaret E. Gruen (Contributor)
  • Jingzhi Tan (Contributor)
  • Philip White (Contributor)
  • Bridgett M. vonHoldt (Contributor)
  • Evan MacLean (Contributor)
  • Brian Hare (Contributor)



While we know that dogs evolved from wolves, it remains unclear how domestication affected dog cognition. One hypothesis suggests dog domestication altered social maturation by a process of selecting for an attraction to humans. Under this account, dogs became more flexible in using inherited skills to cooperatively-communicate with a new social partner that was previously feared and expressed these unusual social skills early in development. Here we tested dog (N=44) and wolf (N=37) puppies, 5-18 weeks old, on a battery of temperament and cognition tasks. We found that dog puppies were more attracted to humans, read human gestures more skillfully, and made more eye contact with humans than wolf puppies. The two species were similarly attracted to objects and performed similarly on nonsocial measures of memory and inhibitory control. These results are consistent with the idea that domestication enhanced the cooperative-communicative abilities of dogs as selection for attraction to humans altered social maturation.
Date made availableOct 5 2021

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