The influence of social relationship on food tolerance in wolves and dogs

Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2017) 71:107 DOI 10.1007/s00265-017-2339-8

The influence of social relationship on food tolerance in wolves and dogs (PDF 1.3 MB)

Food sharing is relatively widespread across the animal kingdom, but research into the socio-ecological factors affecting this activity has predominantly focused on primates. These studies do suggest though that food tolerance is linked to the social relationship with potential partners. Therefore, the current study aimed to assess the social factors which influence food tolerance in two canids: wolves and dogs. 

We presented wolves and dogs with two paradigms: dyadic tolerance tests and group carcass feedings. In the dyadic setting, the affiliative relationship with a partner was the most important factor, with a strong bond promoting more sharing in both species. In the group setting, however, rank was the primary factor determining feeding behavior. Although the dominant individuals of both species defended the carcass more than subordinates, in the dogs, the subordinates mostly stayed away from the resource and the most dominant individual monopolized the food. In the wolves, the subordinates spent as much time as dominant individuals in proximity to, and feeding from, the carcass. 

Overall, the social relationship with a partner is important in food distribution in wolves and dogs, but the precise effects are dependent on species and feeding context.