Study: Wolves Take More Active Role in Working with Humans Than Dogs

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. compliant / kəmˈplajənt / (adj) – willing to follow or obey someone

    My dogs are very compliant; they follow all of my commands.

  2. take the lead / teɪk ðə liːd / (idiom) – to take the first action

    The oldest dog in the group took the lead in going outside, while the puppies followed.

  3. improvise / ˈɪmprəˌvaɪz / (v) – to do or make something quickly without preparation

    They weren’t ready for the presentation, so they had to improvise.

  4. conform / kənˈfoɚm / (v) – to adjust to something or someone

    The dog conforms to its owner’s behavior. If the owner is asleep, the dog will also sleep.

  5. side by side / saɪd baɪ saɪd / (idiom) – in the same place

    Pets live side by side with their owners.


Read the text below.

Researchers have found that wolves and dogs can both work with humans, but dogs were more compliant.

Scientists from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna conducted an experiment in Austria’s Wolf Science Center to compare how well dogs and wolves can cooperate with people. The scientists discovered that, while both animals were equally cooperative with humans, wolves took the lead more than dogs did.

The experiment involved two groups. The first group had 15 gray wolves between ages two and eight years old. On the other hand, the second group had 12 mixed-breed dogs aged two to seven years old.

Each animal was paired with a human trainer. The animals and humans needed to work together to pull two ends of a rope attached to a table, which they had to move closer to themselves. Once the task was completed, the animal could then get the food on the table.

In most of the cases, the wolves led the humans in their group and even improvised their own strategies to accomplish the task. In contrast, the dogs often waited for their human partners to move first before following.

The findings of the study suggest that while wolves and dogs are both highly social animals, dogs have a compliant style of cooperation. This means that dogs avoid conflict by conforming to the behavior of their human partners.

The researchers believe that this compliant behavior made dogs ideal companions for people as there would have been less competition over resources like food. Additionally, less conflict meant a safe environment for dogs and people to live side by side.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you agree that the compliant style of cooperation makes dogs ideal pets? Why or why not?
• Aside from having less conflict, what do you think are the benefits of cooperation among animals? Explain.

Discussion B

• What do you think is the importance of studying animal behavior? Discuss.
• If you could study the behavior of any animal, what animal would you study? Why?