On the effects of domestication on canine social development and behavior

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Social development and behavior are compared for 4 Eastern timber wolves (C. lupus lycaon) and 4 Alaskan Malamutes (C. familiaris). The two groups were born a year apart, but all were fostered at approximately 10 days of age on the same lactating female wolf, reared jointly by the authors and the foster mother, housed in the same facility, and subjected to the same regimen of maintenance and social contact with adult members of the animal colony. It is suggested that many of the observed group differences can be attributed to selection in domestic dogs for prolongation of juvenile behavior and morphological characteristics. Discussion then focuses on the evolution and ontogeny of ritualized aggression in wolves and the effects of domestication on agonistic behavior in domestic dogs. It is suggested that the disintegration of ritualized aggression in dogs is, in part, a consequence of neotenization. Also implicated in the breakdown of this behavioral system is human provision of food, which relaxes (1) the behavioral consequences of injuries sustained in fighting and (2) the selective advantage enjoyed by group-hunting species who have evolved social systems of population regulation.