Dogs and wolves differ in their response allocation to their owner/caregiver or food in a concurrent choice procedure

Lindsay Isernia, Clive D.L. Wynne, Leanna House, Erica N. Feuerbacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Dogs and wolves both show attachment-like behaviors to their owners/caregivers, including exploring more in the presence of the owner/caregiver, and greeting the owner/caregiver more effusively after an absence. Concurrent choice studies can elucidate dogs’ and wolves’ relationship to their owners/caregivers by assessing their preference for the owner/caregiver compared to other stimuli. While previous research has used concurrent choice paradigms to evaluate dogs’ and wolves’ preference between humans giving social interaction or humans giving food, no research has explored their preferences for an owner/caregiver compared to food when the food is not delivered by a human. In the current study, we investigated whether dogs and hand-reared wolves preferred their owner/caregiver or food, unassociated with a human, when they had been equally deprived of each stimulus (at least 4 hours). Each canid experienced four trials; we measured first choice and time spent with each alternative. Dogs overall did not show a preference for the owner or food. Wolves, on the other hand, tended to show a preference for food in both measures. We observed a range of individual variation in both measures, although dogs showed more individual variation. The differences we observed between dogs and wolves align with prior research comparing wolf and dog behavior directed towards humans; however, the reasons for this differential responding could be due to a variety of factors beyond phylogeny.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12834
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Domestic dog
  • Food
  • Owner
  • Preference
  • Wolf

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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