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Offbeat Wolf Puppies Play Fetch, Too, Study Finds

05:09  17 january  2020
05:09  17 january  2020 Source:   mentalfloss.com

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Researchers found that some wolf puppies are willing to play fetch with total strangers, suggesting that following human commands is intrinsic to For their study in the journal iScience, researchers from Stockholm University in Sweden set out to find how domestication affects behaviors in young

A new study in the journal iScience shows that some wolf puppies also know how to play fetch , upending the long held hypothesis that the ability to interpret subtle human social cues is unique to dogs and arose as a result of selective breeding AFP/File.

A wolf puppy sits in its enclosure at the zoo in Eberswalde, Germany, 10 June 2014. The wolf offsprings will be raised by hand. Photo: Patrick Pleul/dpa | usage worldwide   (Photo by Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images) A wolf puppy sits in its enclosure at the zoo in Eberswalde, Germany, 10 June 2014. The wolf offsprings will be raised by hand. Photo: Patrick Pleul/dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images)

It took thousands of years of selective breeding for wolves to become the Golden Retrievers you see at dog parks today. Domesticated dogs are very different from their wild counterparts, but according to a new study, they may have a surprising trait in common. Researchers found that some wolf puppies are willing to play fetch with total strangers, suggesting that following human commands is intrinsic to canines.

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But a new study in the journal iScience shows that some wolf puppies also know how to play fetch , upending the long-held hypothesis that the ability to interpret subtle human social cues is unique to dogs and arose as a result of selective breeding. The finding was made by chance as researchers in

But a new study in the journal iScience shows that some wolf puppies also know how to play fetch , upending the long-held hypothesis that the ability The finding was made by chance as researchers in Sweden subjected 13 wolf puppies born to three different litters to a series of behavioral tests.

For their study in the journal iScience, researchers from Stockholm University in Sweden set out to find how domestication affects behaviors in young wolves. They raised litters of wolf and dog pups separately from 10 days old and placed them in various scenarios.

When the scientists tested how the wolf puppies would respond to a game of fetch, they expected to be ignored. Chasing a ball and bringing it back requires understanding human commands and obeying them—abilities that were thought to only have emerged in dogs post-domestication.

The first two wolf groups met expectations by showing little interest in the toy, but something different happened with the third set. Three eight-week old pups went after the ball and brought it back when they were encouraged to do so. This was the case even when the person giving the commands was someone they had never met before.

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Some wolf puppies are down to play , too . A team of researchers put 13 8-week-old wolf puppies from three different litters through a series of The fetching behavior snuck up on the researchers, since the first two wolf litters involved in the tests showed no interest in balls, which was in line with

If wolf pups will retrieve a ball for a stranger, no training necessary, maybe dogs’ wild ancestors were also ready for human games. Sting, at about six weeks old, was one of three wolf pups that fetched a ball during an experiment at the University of Stockholm.Credit Christina Wheat Hansen.

Even though most of the puppies didn't play fetch, the fact that those who did belonged to the same litter indicates a "standing variation" for a retrieving trait in wolves. "When you talk about a specific trait in the context of standing variation, it means that there is variation for the expression of this trait within a given population," co-author Christina Hansen Wheat tells Mental Floss. "For our study it suggests that, while probably rare, standing variation in the expression of human-directed behavior in ancestral populations could have been an important target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication." In other words, ancient people seeking to domesticate wolves might have focused on some wolves' innate ability to follow human commands.

The first dogs were domesticated as far back as 33,000 years ago. Over millennia, humans have selected for traits like loyalty, friendliness, and playfulness to create the modern dog, but these new findings could mean that the dog's earliest canine ancestors were genetically predisposed toward some of these behaviors.

"All three litters were brought up under identical and standardized conditions across years," Hansen says of the pups in the study. "With this significant effort to control the environmental conditions, it is likely that the differences in behavior across litters to some extent have a genetic basis."

After raising the dog and wolf litters for three years and completing that part of their study, the researchers will continue to analyze their data to see if there are any other adorable (or weird) traits the two groups share.

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