Comparing wolves and dogs: current status and implications for human 'self-domestication'

Trends Cogn Sci. 2022 Apr;26(4):337-349. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2022.01.003. Epub 2022 Feb 7.


Based on claims that dogs are less aggressive and show more sophisticated socio-cognitive skills compared with wolves, dog domestication has been invoked to support the idea that humans underwent a similar 'self-domestication' process. Here, we review studies on wolf-dog differences and conclude that results do not support such claims: dogs do not show increased socio-cognitive skills and they are not less aggressive than wolves. Rather, compared with wolves, dogs seek to avoid conflicts, specifically with higher ranking conspecifics and humans, and might have an increased inclination to follow rules, making them amenable social partners. These conclusions challenge the suitability of dog domestication as a model for human social evolution and suggest that dogs need to be acknowledged as animals adapted to a specific socio-ecological niche as well as being shaped by human selection for specific traits.

Keywords: aggression; cognition; domestication hypotheses; fear; human self-domestication; sociability.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Dogs
  • Domestication
  • Humans
  • Wolves* / psychology