What does it take to become 'best friends'? Evolutionary changes in canine social competence

Trends Cogn Sci. 2013 Jun;17(6):287-94. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.04.005. Epub 2013 May 3.


The traditional and relatively narrow-focused research on ape-human comparisons has recently been significantly extended by investigations of different clades of animals, including the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Here, we provide a short overview of how the comparative investigation of canine social behaviour advances our understanding of the evolution of social skills and argue that a system-level approach to dog social cognition provides a broader view on the 'human-likeness' of canine social competence. We introduce the concept of evolutionary social competence as a collateral notion of developmental social competence. We argue that such an extended perspective on social competence provides a useful tool for conceptualising wolf-dog differences in socio-cognitive functioning, as well as for considering specific social skills not in isolation, but as a part of a system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Decision Making*
  • Dogs
  • Humans
  • Mental Competency / psychology*
  • Social Behavior*