Learning and Domestication
Biology 342 | Fall 2014
How Interaction with Humans has Altered Animal Behavior
In dogs, learning from humans likely requires some socialization with humans during development. Evidence suggests that a dog’s familiarity with a particular human greatly effects a dog’s performance on cue-following tasks. However, the same research suggests that level of training does not have an effect on a dog’s ability to complete cue-following tasks . This suggests that domestic dogs have, to some degree, an innate ability to learn human social signaling, regardless of environment and experience. Further studies were done to compare the learning of human social cues in dogs and wolves. Adult wolves that were trained in the same way as adult dogs showed a similar level of responsiveness to human pointing.
Percent of correct choices of identically trained dogs and wolves, when directed by human pointing at different ages. Control wolves were given no training. From Gacsi et al.
However, at 4 months old, dogs showed a significantly greater response to pointing than wolves . This further suggests that the ability to quickly learn social cues from humans is at least partially innate, although experience can create this same phenomena in other species. As with most “nature vs. nurture” questions, the truth of this trait’s development lies in the middle.