How man has bred modern dogs to be his best friend: Popular canine breeds such as Labradors are needier than their more wolf-like counterparts because of intense artificial breeding, study suggests

  • Czechoslovakian Wolf-dogs are more independent and less needy than Labs
  • German Shepherd's it found, fall somewhere between the two extremes  
  • When faced with an impossible task the wolf-like dogs stared at humans far less 

It is well known that dogs are the domesticated descendants of wolves, but how wolf-like our pet pooches are and their neediness depends on their breed, a study has found. 

Italian researchers studied three breeds and compared their behaviour and how much they relied on humans and asked for help via the irresistible puppy-dog eyes.  

Increased staring at their owners and nearby people is associated with high levels of trust and a dependency, with some dogs showing more of it than others.

Unsurprisingly, it found that the Czechoslovakian Wolf-dogs are more independent and less needy than Labradors. 

German Shepherd's it found, fall somewhere between the two. 

It stems, the researchers claim, from more intense artificial selection from humans to create affectionate dogs which has bred out their wild nature in some breeds. 

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Unsurprisingly, a study has  found that the Czechoslovakian Wolf-dogs are more independent and less needy than Labradors (stock)

Unsurprisingly, a study has  found that the Czechoslovakian Wolf-dogs are more independent and less needy than Labradors (stock)

In the study, Veronica Maglieri of the University of Pisa and colleagues focused on the phenomena of human-directed gazing and how reliant 

Human-directed gazing, a keystone in dog–human communication, has long been suggested to derive from both domestication and breed selection. 

The researchers trained the breeds to find food hidden under an upturned metal strainer, then they made the task impossible, by screwing the strainer down.

The apparatus consisted of a six-inch (15 cm) metal strainer placed upside down over a few titbits of food on a piece of plywood. 

The strainer could be either moved off the platform or overturned to obtain the food or it could be securely screwed to the plywood so the food could not be accessed.

All the tests were conducted in a place familiar to the dogs, such as their garden or a park they regularly frequented.

Owners were asked not to feed their dogs for at least four hours prior to testing and the dogs 

A total of 56 dogs were tested, 43 (77 per cent) solved the possible task at least four times and then gained access to the next stage, the unsolvable trial.

In the paper, the researchers say: 'In the solvable trials, all the dogs quickly learned how to obtain the reward by manipulating the apparatus with their mouths or paws.'

It was in this trial that the difference emerged, with the Czechoslovakian Wolf-dogs spending far longer investigating the equipment. 

Although they spent the same amount of time looking and smelling the apparatus, the wolf-dogs spent longer manipulating the apparatus.

A total of 56 dogs were tested, 43 (77 per cent) solved the possible task at least four times and then gained access to the next stage, the unsolvable trial. When faced with an impossible task, Labradors looked at people for around 4.5 seconds, but the Czechoslovakian Wolf-dogs (pictured) spent barely longer than a second appealing to the people

A total of 56 dogs were tested, 43 (77 per cent) solved the possible task at least four times and then gained access to the next stage, the unsolvable trial. When faced with an impossible task, Labradors looked at people for around 4.5 seconds, but the Czechoslovakian Wolf-dogs (pictured) spent barely longer than a second appealing to the people

They also spent less time staring at their accompanying humans. 

Labradors looked at people for around 4.5 seconds, but the Czechoslovakian Wolf-dogs spent barely longer than a second appealing to the people. 

'This finding indicates a strong variability in the level of persistence to manipulate the apparatus in our dog groups despite their similar habits and rearing conditions, with the Czechoslovakian Wolf-dogs showing a more ‘wolf-like’ behaviour, probably due to its genetic closeness to the wild ancestors,' the researchers write.

They add: 'In conclusion, our findings suggest that despite the numerous crossing with German Shepherd after the first hybrid litter, the artificial selection operated on Czechoslovakian Wolf-dogs has produced a breed more similar to ancient breeds (more genetically close to wolves due to a less-intense artificial selection) and not particularly humanoriented.'

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Royal Society Open Science

HOW DID DOGS BECOME DOMESTICATED?

A genetic analysis of the world's oldest known dog remains revealed that dogs were domesticated in a single event by humans living in Eurasia, around 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Dr Krishna Veeramah, an assistant professor in evolution at Stony Brook University, told MailOnline: 'The process of dog domestication would have been a very complex process, involving a number of generations where signature dog traits evolved gradually.

'The current hypothesis is that the domestication of dogs likely arose passively, with a population of wolves somewhere in the world living on the outskirts of hunter-gatherer camps feeding off refuse created by the humans.

'Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this, and while the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic [mutually beneficial] relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.'

Popular dogs breeds such as Labradors are needier than their more wolf-like counterparts

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