Rachel Dale

Post-doc
Contact rachel.dale@vetmed.ac.at
University University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
Project at the WSC Prosociality in dogs and wolves
With us since 2013
Companion Kilio

I am a PhD student at the WSC working on prosociality in dogs and wolves. I am investigating whether dogs and wolves show positive social behaviours towards each other such as helping, sharing and giving. These behaviours form the basis for altruism in humans which allows us to support one another, including strangers and it’s thought that other social species may also show these tendencies. Canines are very social animals; with wolves often working together to hunt and raise puppies. But these ‘prosocial’ behaviours have never been studied in canines before so it’s a really exciting project that can help us uncover the evolutionary routes of altruism.

Most beloved animals at WSC: I haven’t been here long enough to have a firm favourite yet but I am very fond of Nanuk with his quizzical expression and gentle nature. From the dogs, Nuru reminds me of my dogs back in Scotland so I can’t help having a soft spot for him!

Former experience: I am originally from Scotland where I studied Psychology and completed research on cross-cultural differences in the development of human infants. I then did a Masters in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology. During my Masters I studied African elephants for my research project and then went on to work as a research assistant on Asian elephant cognition. This work with elephants was great experience in studying animals that are very different from us humans. I love the challenge of designing research for animals that see the world in a very different was to us and I am also fascinated by social behaviours. These interests led me here, to studying the social behaviour of dogs and wolves where I can embrace the challenge of designing novel research ideas to study an area of canine social behaviour that has not been studied before. Plus I get to spend every day working with wolves in a beautiful setting!