Welcome to the world of dogs!
The Clever Dog Lab is a scientific society linked to the Unit of Comparative Cognition at the Messerli Research Institute (University of Veterinary Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, University of Vienna).
Through our studies we try to find out more about problem-solving and learning abilities of dogs, and about their perception of the environment and their relationships to us humans.
Why we are interested in dogs...
Domestic dogs, since their divergence from wolves about 15,000 years ago, have become an integral part of the human communities. They are not only reared but also selected and bred to cooperate and communicate with humans, to predict their behaviour and to learn from them. For those outstanding collaborative capacities in dogs, that distinguish them from other animals, there may be three possible sources:
Firstly, they may have inherited a tendency for cooperative and synchronous behaviour from their wolf-like ancestors, which were characterized by organized social dynamics of family groups and cooperative hunting. This ability might have enabled them to easily adapt to their new, human social groups.
Secondly, during the course of domestication, dogs seem to have developed novel capabilities compared to wolves, which enable them to engage in cooperative and communicative situations with humans better than wolves do. This notion is supported by differences found in experimental comparisons between dogs and wolves – even if they were identically socialized by humans.
Thirdly, in their individual life, dogs typically gain experiences and are trained to act cooperatively and in adaptation to human behaviour.
Consequently, dogs are promising subjects in studies on behaviours and cognitive abilities requiring a disposition to collaborate and communicate with humans.