Study suggests dogs have lost ability to reconcile after violent conflicts

July 4, 2018 by Bob Yirka, report
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of researchers with the University of Vienna's Messerli Research Institute has found that wolves tend to reconcile shortly after conflicts but dogs do not. In their paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the group describes their study of captive wolf packs and dogs from a rescue shelter and what they learned.

Wolves, as most are aware, live in packs. Such packs, prior research has shown, tend to have rules of behavior to ensure survival of the pack. There are rules regarding dominance, eating, mating and apparently, as the researchers in Austria found, rules regarding how to behave after a conflict. Dogs are also still considered a pack animal, but as the researchers also found, have lost an important pack trait—the ability to make up after fighting.

To learn more about how both wolves and behave after conflicts, the researchers studied four captive and dog packs, paying particular attention to how they behaved in the minutes after a scuffle.

The four wolf packs were formed by wild wolves that had been captured and kept in captivity. Being new to one another, the researchers report, led to a lot of —on average, once an hour. But they noted, the conflicts tended to be short-lived and the combatants tended to make up almost immediately thereafter. After 10 minutes, they would often be seen playing together. The four dog packs were formed by taking in dogs from a shelter. They, too, were new to one another, which led to occasional fighting (but less often than the wolves). But in sharp contrast to the wolves, the researchers note, the dogs tended to fight one another more viciously, and avoided one another after fighting, rather than reconciling.

The suggest quick resolution to conflicts is important for pack survival in , which would explain the behavior they observed. Dogs, on the other hand, have lost many of their pack survival skills over thousands of years of domestication. Getting along after fighting appears to be one of those lost skills. In their new role as man's best friend, it is more important that they get along in a human environment and behave independently regarding others of their kind.

Explore further: Wolves found to be more cooperative with their own kind than dogs with theirs

More information: Simona Cafazzo et al. The effect of domestication on post-conflict management: wolves reconcile while dogs avoid each other, Royal Society Open Science (2018). DOI: 10.1098/rsos.171553

Highly cooperative social species are expected to engage in frequent reconciliation following conflicts in order to maintain pack cohesiveness and preserve future cooperation. By contrast, in social species with low reliance on cooperation, reconciliation is expected to be less frequent. Here, we investigate the pattern of reconciliation in four captive wolf packs and four captive dog packs. We provide evidence for reconciliation in captive wolves, which are highly dependent on cooperation between pack members, while domestic dogs, which rely on conspecific cooperation less than wolves, avoided interacting with their partners after conflicts. Occurrence, intensity, latency, duration and initiation of wolf reconciliations appeared to vary as a consequence of a compromise between the costs (e.g. risk of further aggression) and the benefits (e.g. restoring relationship with opponents) of such interactions. Our results are in line with previous findings on various wolf packs living under different social and ecological conditions, suggesting that reconciliation is an important strategy for maintaining functional relationships and pack cohesiveness. However, current results on dogs are in contrast to the only other study showing that reconciliation can occur also in this species. Therefore, the occurrence of reconciliation in dogs may be influenced by social and environmental conditions more than in wolves. Which factors promote and modulate reconciliation in dogs needs to be further investigated.

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5 / 5 (4) Jul 04, 2018
Makes no sense. If this was true then two things would be expected. A "pack" of domesticated dogs living in a home would become increasing violent towards each other. And wild animal packs would have no cohesion making all feral dogs loners. Neither of these conditions exist in the real world. Wild dog packs are common. And I own three dogs that have conflict now and again (usually when the big dog barrels over the smaller dogs which really pisses them off.) but at the end of the day they all sleep next to each other. They all jump to each others defense when the alarm is sounded by one.
5 / 5 (3) Jul 04, 2018

Couldn't agree more.

The domesticated dog packs they studied were comprised of dogs of unknown background.
We have no idea if they had been appropriately socialised during puppyhood/adolescence prior to their entry into the shelter. They may have been bait dogs for dog fighting for all we know.
They could have suffered serious physical or emotional abuse at the hands of humans.
That kind of trauma affects a dog's behaviour significantly.
Would it not have made more sense to use dogs already living together in a domestic environment?
Or for preference dogs bred specifically for the study whose socialisation provenance could be attested to?
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 04, 2018
In her book on hyenas and cape hunting dogs Jane Goodall depicts deep inter animal animosity such as hasn't been observed much in wolves. I have certainly known dogs to nurture resentments for years. One was a chihuaua who hated a irish setter who always ignored his constant snarling. Amother were two shepherds who always went at each other when both got out. I could go on. Generally, wolbes seem more affectionate than apes and I am not surprised we have corrupted our closest friends.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 05, 2018
It sounds like the dogs from the pound were all pit bulls which are genetically selected for their anti-social behavior (in the canine sense). Their overriding instinct is to kill any dog they end up fighting. Naturally, if that is your drive, making up after a fight is not going to happen.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 05, 2018
Agree with you, commenters, and disagree with the article. Wrong data or wrong or preconceived conclusion.
I often say that I should take an example of reconciliation from my dog. About every time a new dog he meets gets aggressive, he backs off. And then a few minutes later he comes confidently with tail up and waving and most of the time they work it out. He is not a submissive dog, and also intercedes if a dog is rough to another dog.

Better social skills than most people, particularly the Royal Society authors. Can we assume that still living under monarchy didn't help their social skills? Just kidding, about as reasonable conclusion as they make :-)
1 / 5 (2) Jul 05, 2018
Whoa. Science has identified lower aggression when the frontal cortex experiences magnetism altho other effects can also arise. How do you think cattle and dogs were originally tamed? By people. No By catastrophic weather effects. Tesla was born during the most horrific thunder storm. Genius created.
I conjecture an area experience massive magnetism during a climate event and the animals inside this event were 'tamed' by the effects of the magnetism on the prefrontal cortex. Is is so hard then to see this as an acquired aspect? Especially when humans are know for retaliation and revenge. Forgiveness being much voiced about but little seen.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 05, 2018
AND if any group of humans were to have experienced 'tameness' how long do you think it would be before they would be eliminated by the groups that weren't 'tamed?' Any reading of the deep past reveals savage elimination of groups by groups. Even pre history. The ONLY group of 'tamed' people who managed to survive and prosper were the ancient Ethiopians of AXUM who then proceeded to unify Egypt, the longest lived civilization whose North and South unification without war continues to baffle all historians.

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