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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Human-Socialized Wolves Follow Diverse Human Gestures… And They May Not Be Alone

  • Author(s): Udell, Monique A. R.
  • Spencer, Jessica M.
  • Dorey, Nicole R.
  • Wynne, Clive D. L.
  • et al.

Many studies document the domestic dogs’ responsiveness to human gestures. Reports of success on human guided tasks have led to evolutionary hypotheses that set dogs’ skills apart from other species, including other canids, in terms of their social cognition and comprehension of human communicative stimuli. However, until recently the range of other species tested and the availability of studies using equivalent testing methods between different species and groups have been limited, making it difficult to interpret cross-species comparisons. Here we demonstrate that human-socialized wolves are not only capable of responding to points made with the arm and hand, but are sensitive to a wide range of human gestures when given the opportunity to utilize such gestures in an object-choice task. Claims that domestic dogs are unique in their ability to respond to diverse novel stimuli may be in part due to the absence of data for the same range of gestures in other species. We also provide the first evidence that human-socialized coyotes have the capacity to utilize a human point to locate a target; further demonstrating that domestication is not a prerequisite for canid responsiveness to human actions, and that socialization and life experience are likely more important predictors of success

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