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KLIVV Journal Club

Can dogs generalize what they learned in a cooperative task to new human and conspecific partners?

presented by Ana

Bray et al. 2021 Early-emerging and highly heritable sensitivity to human communication in dogs

JC moderated by Hannah

Pet dogs co-representation of their partners' actions in a joint-Simon task

presented by Jasmin

public holiday - no JC

Effects of Age, Training, and Number of Dogs in the Household on Inequity Aversion in Dogs

Presented by Kia

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General Research

Our research focuses on understanding the effects of domestication on animals’ social behaviour, personality, physical and social cognition. Our model species are wolves and dogs. To investigate the effects of domestication without the confounding factor of different experiences, we compare wolves and dogs living at the Wolf Science Center (WSC), where animals live in conspecific packs and are highly socialized to humans. Additionally, to understand how the socio-ecology of these species might affect their behaviour, and to evaluate the role of experience on social and physical cognition, we also conduct studies with both wild wolves and free-ranging dogs as well as pet dogs living in Vienna (Clever Dog Lab). 

Research Topics

Social cognition and Cooperation

  • Cooperation and tolerance: Within the framework of several funded projects (ERC CanCoop 311870, FWF P21244-B17, WWTF project CS11-026 to Zs. Virányi), in the last 8 years we have conducted numerous tests at the WSC, comparing wolves’ and dogs’ tolerance and cooperative inclinations both with conspecifics and humans. In contrast to the major domestication hypotheses, we have found that dogs’ cooperative abilities have not been enhanced during domestication but that more subtle differences exist between wolves and dogs that need further investigation.
  • Social relationships and the underlying physiology: Based on observational data (CanCoop 311870, FWF P21244-B17) as well as experiments (FWF-OTKA to Zs. Virányi), we have been studying the social relationships of wolves and dogs both with conspecifics and human partners over the last years.In 2016 we received funding from the WWTF (CS15-018) to explore the role of oxytocin (OT) in dog domestication. We have been conducting a number of studies both at the WSC and at the CDL, investigating whether the OT system provides the mechanism underlying the establishment and maintenance of social bonds both with conspecifics and with humans.
  • Communication and conflict management:  Ongoing research at the WSC investigates conspecific social behaviour and communication including visual communication (WWTF project CS11-026 to Zs. Viranyi), acoustic communication (in collaboration with Simon Townsend, University of Warwick), and olfactory communication (in collaboration with Matthias Laska, Linköping University). In 2014 we extended this work to include two larger wolf packs - one pack of Arctic wolves (at Olomouc Zoo, Czech Republic) and another pack of European wolves (at Tambach Wildpark in Germany). Within the framework of a Lisa Meitner- FWF scholarship to Simona Cafazzo (M1400-B19), we also started investigating the different conflict management styles of wolves and dogs.

Personality: Within the framework of the ERC project (CanCoop 311870), we have also started investigating aspects of wolves’ and dogs’ personality both in terms of inhibition and in relation to how they approach problems linked to the environment (e.g. different aspects linked to independent problem solving, such as neophobia, persistence, behavioural flexibility etc.).

Physical cognition: It has also been suggested that during domestication, dogs might have lost some physical cognition skills due to the buffering effect of humans. A project was conducted at the CDL (FWF- 21418 in collaboration with Ludwig Huber) to investigate the understanding of specific physical properties in pet dogs and we now have an ongoing project comparing wolves and dogs (FWF P33928-B in collaboration with Priv. Doz. Dr. Sabine Tebbich from the University of Vienna).

Team

Senior scientists
Friederike Range
Sarah Marshall-Pescini

Junior scientists / Post docs
Andreas Berghänel
Giulia Cimarelli
Lauren M. Robinson
Martina Lazzaroni (Free-ranging dog project- DOC fellowship, Austrian Academy of Sciences)

PhD Students
Gwen Wirobski (Role of OT in domestication, WWTF CS15-018)
Hoi-Lam Jim  (The role of eavesdropping in cooperation in wolves and dogs, Doctoral College: Cognition and Communication)
María Teresa (Mayte) Martínez Navarrete (Animals’ understanding of the partner’s role in cooperation, FWF)Gwen Wirobski (Role of OT in domestication, WWTF CS15-018)
Daniel Rivas Blanco (Physical Cognition FWF P33928-B)
Theresa Walter (WWTF with Sarah Marshall-Pescini)

Diploma and Master´s students

At CDL:

Schmid Jasmin
Schöndorfer Selina
Bean Sophie
Lutz Annika
Hartl Sophie
Kia Radovanovic
Monika Mircheva
Joana Schär

At WSC:

Femke van Steen
Lou Gonne

Diploma and MSc Student opportunities

We host student projects at the Clever Dog Lab, at Wolf Science Centre and also with free-ranging dogs in Morocco and wild wolves in Italy.

Follow this link for student applications to work at the WSC. For work with free-ranging dogs please contact Andreas Berghänel, and to work with wolves in Italy please contact Martina Lazzaroni  (for the latter, a basic knoweldge of Italian is highly reccomended).

Collaborators

Marco Apollonio (University of Sassari)
Sarah Brosnan (Georgia State University)
Tobias Deschner (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
Ludwig Huber (University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna)
Felix Knauer (University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna)
Kurt Kotrschal (University of Vienna)
Anna Kukekova (University of Illinois)
Claus Lamm (University of Vienna)
Matthias Laska (Linköping University)
Inga Neumann (University of Regensburg)
Rupert Palme (University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna)
Malgorzata Pilot (University of Lincoln)
Massimo Scandura (University of Sassari)
Sabine Tebbich (University of Vienna)
Simon Townsend (University of Warwick)
Paola Valsecchi (University of Parma)
Zsófia Virányi (University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna)

Student Opportunities

We are often looking for motivated students with interest in animal cognition and behaviour. We offer the possibility of Master’s projects and internships with the possibility of working either at the Wolf Science Center (WSC), Clever Dog Lab, or at our field-site in Morocco where we observe free-ranging dogs. For work at the WSC please consult this page. For work at the other facilities please contact Sarah Marshall.