In 2016, we started a research project with free-ranging dogs in Morocco. As part of our main project we are conducting a series of studies on social and physical cognition in free-ranging dogs, comparing them with pet dogs and WSC dogs. The comparison of such a wide range of dog populations with different levels of human socialization experience will allow us to substantially advance our understanding of the role socialization plays in affecting dogs’ cognitive skills and the comparison with wolves will further enhance our comprehension of the potential effects of domestication.
Aside from the main project on social and physical cognition, we set up a series of other studies carried out by students working with us in the field, which include: 1. monitoring the number and movements of the dogs in the studied area, aiming to create a social network analysis which may increase our understanding of the dogs’ distribution and pack formation; 2. collecting behavioural data to investigate social dynamics in packs of free-ranging dogs; 3. collecting and analysing DNA samples of packs and litters of dogs to investigate the relatedness of pack members; 4. studying the attitudes of both the local and tourist population regarding the presence and role of free-ranging dogs in their society.
The project is partially funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Doctoral Fellowship Programme to Martina Lazzaroni).