Exploring Differences in Dogs’ and Wolves’ Preference for Risk in a Foraging Task

Marshall-Pescini S, Besserdich I, Kratz C and Range F (2016) Exploring Differences in Dogs’ and Wolves’ Preference for Risk in a Foraging Task. Front. Psychol. 7:1241. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01241

Exploring Differences in Dogs’ and Wolves’ Preference for Risk in a Foraging Task (PDF 3 MB)

Both human and non-humans species face decisions in their daily lives which may entail taking risks. At the individual level, a propensity for risk-taking has been shown to be positively correlated with explorative tendencies, whereas, at the species level a more variable and less stable feeding ecology has been associated with a greater preference for risky choices.

In the current study we compared two closely related species; wolves and dogs, which differ significantly in their feeding ecology and their explorative tendencies. Wolves depend on hunting for survival with a success rate of between 15 and 50%, whereas free-ranging dogs are largely scavengers specialized on human produce.

Here, we used a foraging paradigm, which allowed subjects to choose between a guaranteed less preferred food vs. a more preferred food, which was however, delivered only 50% of the time. We compared identically raised adult wolves and dogs and found that in line with the differing feeding ecologies of the two species and their explorative tendencies, wolves were more risk prone than dogs.