Melanie Pekel

January 2015 - July 2015
Contact melanie_pekel@hotmail.com
University Wageningen University and Research
Project at the WSC Investigating the hierarchical organisation of pack-living captive wolves and domestic dogs
Favourite wolf book Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel
Favourite animal at the WSC I love all dogs and wolves

Growing up in what we called ‘our little zoo’, with our cat ‘Pino’, chickens, Flemish giants, guinea pigs, rabbits, an aquarium full of fish, gerbils, and a lot of Belgian shepherds really shaped me for who I am now. I was always caring for the animals and playing outside, eating strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and gooseberries from the plants. I loved catching spiders and bumblebees in jars and you could always find me near the water catching tadpoles and other small water animals. I fell in love with nature and every living creature in it.

The fact that I grew up with a father training Belgian Shepherd dogs may have contributed to my curiosity towards the behaviour of dogs and their wild relatives, wolves. I’ve always wanted to study the behaviour of wolves. Here at the Wolf Science Center I have the opportunity to study the behaviour of pack-living dogs and wolves from up close. I am living and working together with other enthusiastic students doing their project at the WSC. Furthermore, I think it’s awesome to work together with great scientists in the field of dog and wolf behaviour and cognition.

My project focusses on the hierarchical organisation of pack-living wolves and dogs in which the main questions is: ‘Has the process of domestication changed the intraspecific behaviour of dogs in respect to wolves? And could this have affected the social style of dogs?’

To get more insight in the hierarchical organisation of our wolves and dogs I am using social data of the wolves and dogs which was acquired from June 2013 until March 2014 with a Pocket Observer. I will analyse this data and determine the hierarchical organisation of the packs in the social (non-feeding) context. In the same year a feeding experiment was conducted and recorded in which the packs were fed with a mixture of dry food and meat. At the moment I am really busy coding these videos after which I will analyse the data and again determine the hierarchical organisation of the packs in a feeding context.

At the end, we will compare the hierarchical organisation of the packs in- and outside the feeding context. This will hopefully give us more insight of the packs’ social structures and styles and might give us more insight in the question whether domestication has changed the intraspecific behaviour of dogs in respect to wolves and if this has affected the social style of dogs.