Cooperative Communication with Humans Evolved to Emerge Early in Domestic Dogs

Hannah Salomons, Kyle C.M. Smith, Megan Callahan-Beckel, Margaret Callahan, Kerinne Levy, Brenda S. Kennedy, Emily E. Bray, Gitanjali E. Gnanadesikan, Daniel J. Horschler, Margaret Gruen, Jingzhi Tan, Philip White, Bridgett M. vonHoldt, Evan L. MacLean, Brian Hare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Although we know that dogs evolved from wolves, it remains unclear how domestication affected dog cognition. One hypothesis suggests dog domestication altered social maturation by a process of selecting for an attraction to humans.1–3 Under this account, dogs became more flexible in using inherited skills to cooperatively communicate with a new social partner that was previously feared and expressed these unusual social skills early in development.4–6 Here, we comparedog (n = 44) and wolf (n = 37) puppies, 5–18 weeks old, on a battery of temperament and cognition tasks. We find that dog puppies are more attracted to humans, read human gestures more skillfully, and make more eye contact with humans than wolf puppies. The two species are similarly attracted to familiar objects and perform similarly on non-social measures of memory and inhibitory control. These results are consistent with the idea that domestication enhanced the cooperative-communicative abilities of dogs as selection for attraction to humans altered social maturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3137-3144.e11
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • canine cognition
  • cooperative communication
  • dogs
  • domestication
  • eye contact
  • gesture comprehension
  • pointing
  • puppies
  • social cognition
  • wolves


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