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Food preferences of similarly raised and kept captive dogs and wolves

DATE: 2018


CITATION: Rao A, Range F, Kadletz K, Kotrschal K, Marshall-Pescini S. Food preferences of similarly raised and kept captive dogs and wolves. PLoS One. 2018;13(9):e0203165. Published 2018 Sep 20.


Food preferences may be driven by a species’ ecology. Closely related species such as dogs and wolves may have evolved preferences for different foods owing to their differing foraging styles. Wolves have been shown to be more persistent in problem-solving experiments and more risk-prone in a foraging task. A possible element affecting these (and other) results is a potential wolf-dog difference in food preferences. To address this possibility, we tested similarly raised and kept dogs and wolves in two different food choice tasks, a classic two-choice task and a multiple-choice paradigm. We predicted that if dogs have adapted to a more opportunistic, scavenging foraging style, they would show a weaker preference for meat over starch rich foods (such as kibble) and be less affected by hunger than wolves. Alternatively, given the recentness of the new niche dogs have created, we predicted no substantial differences between dogs’ and wolves’ food preferences. We found that our subjects did not differ in their preference for meat over kibble in either paradigm. However, wolves’ (but not dogs’) choice patterns were affected by satiation, with wolves being less “selective” when hungry. Furthermore, when fed before testing, wolves were more selective than dogs. These differences were more noticeable in the multiple-choice paradigm than the two-choice task, suggesting that the former, novel paradigm may be more sensitive and better capable of evaluating food preferences in a diverse range of species. Overall, we found that the distinct differences in wolves’ and dogs’ ecology and foraging styles do not appear to have affected their food preferences and thus, differences in food preferences are unlikely to have influenced results of previous experiments demonstrating wolf-dog differences in cognitive skills.


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