When you’re playing fetch with your dog, they learn how to retrieve the ball. Researchers were able to see the same behavior in wolf puppies, which means that they are also able to learn and understand human commands.
The ability of a dog to play fetch and to do many other activities with humans is actually a learned behavior, which first made its appearance after humans domesticated dogs 15.000 years ago. Scientists were led to believe that dogs began to interpret commands from humans only after they were domesticated. But modern dogs differ from wolves both genetically and physically, and also in behavior.
Researchers have put to the test 13 wolf puppies, which were born in three different litters. They wanted to see if the wolf puppies showed the same behaviors as the domesticated puppies. This way, they could see the origin of the behaviors.
Three 8-week-old wolf puppies seemed intrigued by the ball that was thrown, so they brought it back to the person that threw the ball. Researchers did not expect that.
Christina Hansen, a study author at Stockholm University in Sweden, stated that: “when I saw the first wolf puppy retrieving the ball, I literally got goosebumps.”. she also said that she knew that this meant that if this behavior exists in wolves, it could have been a target for “early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication.”
She is known for studying the effects that domestication has on behavior. Together with her colleagues, she raised both domesticated puppied and wolf puppied from when they were ten days old. Both domesticated puppied and wolf puppied underwent a series of tests. One of them was a stranger throwing a ball and then encouraging the puppy to get it back to him or her. Neither the domesticated puppies nor the wolf puppies knew the idea of “fetch” before this experiment.