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Back to the Future: A Glance Over Wolf Social Behavior to Understand Dog–Human Relationship

By Giada Cordoni, Elisabetta Palagi

Category Journal Articles

This review focuses on wolf sociobiology to delineate the traits of cooperative baggage driven by natural selection (wolf-wolf cooperation) and better understand the changes obtained by artificial selection (dog-human cooperation). We selected some behaviors of the dog’s ancestors that provide the basis for the expression of a cooperative society, such as dominance relationships, leverage power, post-aggressive strategies, and playful dynamics between pack members. When possible, we tried to compare the data on wolves with those coming from the dog literature. Wolves can negotiate commodities when the interacting subjects occupy different ranking positions by bargaining social tolerance with helping and support. They are able to manage group disruption by engaging in sophisticated post-conflict maneuvers, thus restoring the relationship between the opponents and reducing the spreading of aggression in the group. Wolves engage in social play also as adults to manipulate social relationships. They are able to flexibly adjust their playful interactions to minimize the risk of escalation. Complex cognitive abilities and communicative skills are probably the main proximate causes for the evolution of inter-specific cooperation in wolves.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Animals
Volume 9
Issue 11
Pages 11
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ani9110991
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Dogs
  3. Human-animal relationships
  4. Mammals
  5. open access
  6. play
  7. Wolves
  1. open access