Since they split from wolves, domestic dogs have changed in many ways. Unlike their wild ancestors, they’re comfortable around humans, pay close attention to us, and follow orders—at least sometimes. That social intelligence is critical to making a dog man’s best friend. But research presented here last week at the annual meetingof the Association for Psychological Science shows that dogs may have also lost some of their social smarts in the process.
One of the classic experiments that shows the cognitive difference between wolves and dogs is the pointing task: Whereas a dog—even a 3-month-old puppy—will readily follow the direction a person points in, wolves just don’t get it. That contrast has been cited as evidence that dogs may have gained social intelligence not present in wolves. “But that story is too simple,” says Friederike Range, a behavioral biologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna.
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