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Dogs flub problem-solving test

Confronting a treat-filled puzzle, pets or shelter animals more likely than wolves to give up

7:05pm, September 15, 2015
dogs looking up at human

WATCH DOGS  Dogs’ tendency to attend to humans and look at faces may get in the way of solving practical problems.

Humans may be a bad influence on their best friends — at least when it comes to problem solving. Dogs that have lived around people lagged behind wolves in a task that wasn’t very tough: tugging a lid off a food container.

Only one of 20 dogs got the lid off a plastic storage box and gobbled the sausage treat inside, reports Monique Udell of Oregon State University in Corvallis. Yet eight of 10 wolves gnawed, pawed and ripped their way into the container.

The social tendencies of dogs may be getting in the way of persistent, independent struggling that would have freed the treat, Udell suggests September 16 in Biology Letters. The dogs in the test (10 pets and 10 shelter dogs with some history of pethood) typically spent 10 to 15 percent of their time gazing at the nearest person and 5 percent or less of the time touching the container. Wolves raised and fed by people but living outdoors,

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