Pet dogs give up too easily and are always looking to humans to solve their problems: This is essentially the argument of a (kind of mean) new study published in the journal Biology Letters. Compared to wolves, domesticated dogs quit more quickly when trying to pull the lid off of a plastic container, even though that container held a delicious treat inside.
Just one dog of the 20 in the study — a mix of pets and shelter animals — successfully pried the lid off the container in the allotted two minutes; in comparison, eight out of ten of the wolves studied managed it. The problem, reports Science News, could be that domestic dogs’ social nature essentially undermined their persistence. When there was a person present, the pet dogs spent less time bothering with the container and more time looking toward the nearby human, as if to say, “Help meeee.” In contrast, the wolves in the study “barely looked at a nearby person,” writer Susan Milius explains.”They typically devoted about 90 percent of the two-minute trial time to grappling with the treat box.”
Although, in a way, the pet dogs were just doing as they’ve always been told. Pet owners spend considerable time teaching their dogs to only eat the food that’s been given to them, so it shouldn’t be so surprising that they were less persistent than the wolves, who, presumably, had never been scolded for stealing food off the kitchen counter. On the other hand, some researchers argue that dogs have been domesticated for so long that they now naturally look to humans for help. Either way, it’s nice to think the pets in this study were just trying their hardest to be good doggies.