Menu
Scientific Advances
Natural compound speeds bone growth
Astronomers spy massive stars in the making
Frog gene map a leap forward for humans
Sun-shy mums may raise MS risk in babies
Soft fossils provide new target for ET search
Mammoth blood brought back to life
Outdoor exercise can boost self esteem
Athletes on growth hormone 'sprint faster'
Countdown begins to 520 day 'Mars mission'
Warmer planet to stress humans: study
Plasma rocket to shorten space voyages
Vaccine may trigger infant epilepsy onset
'Fingerprinting' points to dusty Australia
The hole in the ozone layer: 25 years on
Humans interbred with Neanderthals: analysis
Herschel shows star formation is slowing
Washing hands makes tough choices easier
'Face-book' to measure pain in mice
Science gives clues to World Cup success
Human sigh acts as a reset button
Expert confirms Phar Lap arsenic theory
Dictionary blunder a matter of gravity
Warning on high-dose vitamin D
Calling mum makes you feel better
Dogs dumbed down by domestication
Dogs are now so dependent upon people that they fail certain basic intelligence tests that wolves and wild dogs ace, according to new research.

The findings provide evidence that humans, through domestication of canines, have caused dogs to lose their non-social problem-solving skills. The loss in skills appears to be genetically 'hardwired' into dogs, explaining why homeless dogs struggle to survive.

"Often feral dogs survive by taking advantage of human leftovers or domestic livestock," says lead author Bradley Smith, adding that the 'leftovers' could be things like garbage scrounged from dumps or the occasional food handouts.

"It would take a lot of generations of successful dogs to start fostering any such cognitive abilities required for survival in the wild," says Smith, a researcher in the School of Psychology at the University of South Australia.
Detour test

For the study, accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behavior, he and colleague Carla Litchfield put domesticated dogs and dingoes through a problem-solving test known as "the detour task."

Dingoes are also domesticated dogs, but through many generations, they have adapted to life in the Australian outback. As a result, dingoes have evolved more 'wild' features and instincts that distinguish them from other dogs.

The detour task assesses spatial problem-solving abilities because it requires the animal subjects to travel around a transparent barrier to obtain a reward, which in this case was a bowl of food. The barrier here was a V-shaped fence with detour doors that either swung inward or outward.

The food bowl was placed inside or just outside the intersection point of the 'V' barrier, while each subject on the opposing side of the barrier. The test runs were all conducted at the Dingo Discovery Centre in Victoria, Australia.
Solvers and socialisers

All of the dingoes found the food reward in about 20 seconds, taking proper advantage of the detour doors whenever possible. Domesticated dogs, on the other hand, looked puzzled and confused. They pawed at the fence, dug at it, and even barked, likely out of frustration and to call for help.

Prior research determined that wolves, like dingoes, ace this test.

"Wolves will outperform dogs on any problem-solving tasks that are non-social," says Smith. "Dogs are great at social tasks - communicating with humans, using humans as tools, learning from humans via observation - whereas wolves are much better at general problem solving."

He says few cognitive studies have been performed on wolves and other wild canids, but the handful that have been done suggest wolves are better than domesticated dogs at working independently and at using tools, such as ropes.

Rob Appleby, a researcher at Griffith University in Brisbane, says he agrees with the conclusions and found the latest evidence to be "compelling".

"(The new study) suggests that there may be cognitive differences between wild and domestic canids in terms of how each might approach solving such a problem," he says, "potentially relating to their differing evolutionary histories."

Print
Climate change impact on malaria questioned
Single lens glasses can help prevent falls
Movies manipulate our primal response
Luminescent sharks become invisible
Synthetic biology research gets a hearing
Source of ancient carbon 'burp' detected
Why the goddess of love is in a spin
Computer program recognises online sarcasm
New dinosaur had record-sized horns
Physicists solve missing neutrino mystery
Milk from grass-fed cows may be better
Crabs caught spying on rivals' love claws
Lifestyle may not boost breast cancer gene risk
'Trade-off' gene for plants discovered
Pacific islands growing, not sinking
Caffeine addicts get no real perk
Velvet worm's deadly slime revealed
SpaceX cleared for Florida lift-off
Cyborg rights 'need debating now'
Sunlight shines on silver technology
Mountain biking as risky as football, diving
Dusty simulations may reveal planets
Legal fight over breast cancer gene
Unions call for urgent nano information
Solar panel attraction deadly for insects
Meat eaters munched many ways: study
Snakes may be in decline worldwide
Dogs dumbed down by domestication
Menu
Fossil sheds new light on 'dino-bird'
DNA 'spiderbot' is on the prowl
GM cotton use increases fruit pest problem
Warming to kill off a fifth of all lizards
Super massive black hole given the boot
Ball lightning could be 'all in the mind'
Immune system could be used to test for TB
Mobile phone cancer link unclear, study
Teen brain wired to take risks
Synchrotron probes Egyptian beads
Argonauts 'gulp' air to swim freely
Space station gets a new room
'Digital genome' to protect dying data formats
Sweep yields leads for new malaria drugs
Researchers snap signs of illegal fishing
Spectrum reveals supernova surprise
Scientists create synthetic life
Eavesdropping a waste of energy
Star caught eating its offspring
Megafauna die-off may have cooled planet
Hepatitis C no longer 'death sentence'
Atoms bring quantum computing closer
Visualisation staves off constant craving
Experts debate homeopathy funding