Understanding the Proximate Mechanisms of Canine Cooperation (CanCoop)


Term: March 2013 - February 2018

Project leader: Univ.Ass. Dr. Friederike Range

Project collaborators: Dr. Sarah Marshall, Rachel Dale, MSc, Jennifer Essler, MSc

funded by European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) / ERC Grant Agreement n. [311870]

Human societies largely depend on cooperation, which is vital for activities ranging from raising children to international trade practices. Although it is clear that human collaborative skills are exceptional, animals are also known to collaborate with one another. Elucidating similarities and differences in the cognitive and emotional processes underlying cooperative interactions in non-primate and primate taxa may have profound implications for our understanding of cooperation in humans and non-human-animals. The hope is to increase our understanding of 1) socio-cognitive skills as adaptations to specific environments and/or 2) the evolutionary background and origin of our own skills.

Wolves and dogs are closely related and thus represent the ideal non-primate model to implement this approach, as cooperation is at the core of their social organization and they are adapted to two very different environments. Accordingly, the project‘s main objective is to create a multilevel understanding of the inter- and intra-species cooperative potential in canine-canine and canine-human interactions. This will be accomplished by integrating for the first time evolutionary, cognitive and emotional approaches in a comprehensive framework, supported by national and international collaborations using a novel model system.

The project will include a series of experiments with wolves and dogs that have been raised and kept identically. The work will focus on cognitive processes closely linked to the emotional system, such as empathy, inequity aversion and delayed gratification. These processes are thought to be involved in triggering, maintaining and regulating primate cooperation. Using social network theory, we will integrate knowledge of animals’ emotional tendencies as well as of their cognitive abilities to model canine cooperation and to test the model’s predictions with our own data.


Marshall-Pescini S, Cafazzo S, Virányi Z, Range F. 2017 Integrating social ecology in explanations of wolf–dog behavioral differences Curr. Opin. Behav. Sci. 16 Link 3

Duranton C, Range F, Virányi Z. 2017 Do pet dogs (Canis familiaris) follow ostensive and non-ostensive human gaze to distant space and to objects?. R. Soc. open sci. 4: 170349. Link 4

Essler et al., Domestication Does Not Explain the Presence of Inequity Aversion in Dogs, Current Biology (2017) Link 5

Marshall-Pescini, S. et al. The role of domestication and experience in ‘looking back’ towards humans in an unsolvable task. Sci. Rep. 7, 46636; doi: 10.1038/srep46636 (2017) Link 6

Vasconcellos AdS, Virányi Z, Range F, Ades C, Scheidegger JK, Möstl E, et al. (2016) Training Reduces Stress in Human-Socialised Wolves to the Same Degree as in Dogs. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0162389. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0162389 Link 7

Marshall-Pescini S, Virányi Z, Kubinyi E and Range F (2017) Motivational Factors Underlying Problem Solving: Comparing Wolf and Dog Puppies’ Explorative and Neophobic Behaviors at 5, 6, and 8 Weeks of Age. Front. Psychol. 8:180. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00180 Link 8

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.2016.0124 Link 9

Werhahn, G., Virányi, Z., Barrera, G., Sommese, A., & Range, F. (2016, May 30). Wolves (Canis lupus) and Dogs (Canis familiaris) Differ in Following Human Gaze Into Distant Space But Respond Similar to Their Packmates’ Gaze. Journal of Comparative Psychology. Advance online publication. Link 10

Marshall-Pescini, S; Dale, R; Quervel-Chaumette, M; Range, F (2016): Critical issues in experimental studies of prosociality in non-human species. Anim Cogn. 2016; Link 11

Essler, JL; Cafazzo, S; Marshall-Pescini, S; Virányi, Z; Kotrschal, K; Range, F (2016): Play Behavior in Wolves: Using the "50:50" Rule to Test for Egalitarian Play Styles. PLoS One. 2016; 11(5):e0154150 Link 12

Quervel-Chaumette, M. et al. Familiarity affects other-regarding preferences in pet dogs. Sci. Rep. 5, 18102; doi: 10.1038/srep18102 (2015). http://www.nature.com/articles/srep18102 13

Marshall-Pescini, S./ Virányi, Z./ Range, F.(2015): The effect of domestication on inhibitory control: wolves and dogs compared. Plos One. 2015; 10(2):e0118469 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0118469 14

Range, F./ Virányi, Z. (2015): Tracking the evolutionary origins of dog-human cooperation: the “Canine Cooperation Hypothesis”. Front.Psychol. 5:1582. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01582 http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01582/abstract 15

Range, F./Jenikejew, J./Schröder, I./Virányi, Z. (2014): Difference in quantity discrimination in dogs and wolves. Front.Psychol5:1299. doi:10.3389/fpsyg. 2014.01299 http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01299/abstract 16 

Range, F./Virányi, Z. (2014): Wolves are better imitators of conspecifics than dogs. PLoS ONE, 9, e86559. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0086559 17

Maclean, E. L./Hare, B./Nunn, C. L./Addessi, E./Amici, F./Anderson, R. C./Aureli, F./Baker, J. M./Bania, A. E./Barnard, A. M./Boogert, N. J./Brannon, E. M./Bray, E. E./Bray, J./Brent, L. J. N./Burkart, J. M./Call, J./Cantlon, J. F./Cheke, J./Clayton, N. S./Delgado, L. J./Divincenti, M. M./Fujita, K./Herrmann, E./Hiramatsu, C./Jacobs, L. F./Jordan, K. E./Laude, J. R./Leimgruber, K. L./Messer, E. J. E./Moura, A. C. D. A./Ostojić, L./Picard, A./Platt, M. L./Plotnik, J. M./Range, F./Reader, S. M./Reddy, R. B./Sandel, A. A./Santos, L. R./Schumann, K./Seed, A. M./Sewall, K. B./Shaw, R. C./Slocombe, K. E./Su, Y./Takimoto, A./Tan, J./Tao, R./Schaik, C. P. V./Virányi, Z./Visalberghi, E./Wade, J. C./Watanabe, A./Widness, J./Young, J./Zentall, T. R./Zhao, Y. (2014): The Evolution of self-control. PNAS 111/20, E2140-E2148; DOI10.1073/pnas.1323533111 http://www.pnas.org/content/111/20/E2140.full.pdf 18

Mazzini, F./Townsend, S.W./Virányi, Z./Range, F. (2013): Wolf howling is mediated by relationship quality rather than underlying emotional stress. Curr Biol (23), 17 1677-1680. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982213008233 19

Range, F./Virányi, Z. (2013): Social learning from humans or conspecifics: differences and similarities between wolves and dogs. Front Psychol. 2013; 4:868. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3849518/ 20

Wolf Science Center 21


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