Social Context Influences Resting Physiology in Dogs
Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria
Department of Behavioral Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria
Wolf Science Center, Domestication Lab, Konrad-Lorenz Institute of Ethology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Savoyenstrasse 1a, 1160 Vienna, Austria
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 October 2020
Revised: 17 November 2020
Accepted: 20 November 2020
Published: 26 November 2020
Wolves became dogs over the past 35,000 years. It has been suggested that through domestication, the cooperative nature of wolves and their dependence on pack mates has been re-directed towards humans. This has also affected the social orientation of dogs towards conspecifics. In contrast to wolves, dogs in free-ranging packs are not monogamous and are less cooperative with their pack members. In a previous paper, we found that dogs resting isolated from their pack members were less relaxed/more alert than wolves in the same situation. As social context may affect such results, we replicated this study with pack-living and enclosure-kept dogs resting alone or close to pack members. Specifically, we measured heart rate and heart rate variability as physiological proxies of alertness. We found that dogs were less relaxed/more alert when resting alone than with pack members, but that this may be modulated by social status, i.e., high-ranking dogs being less relaxed than low-ranking individuals. We conclude that relaxation/alertness of dogs during rest depends on social context and that, as in wolves, conspecific pack members still have a role in this. This indicates that domestication has only partially re-directed social orientation in dogs from conspecific pack members to human partners.