Pet dogs lag in problem-solving skills

June 10, 2010 at 2:10 PM

ADELAIDE, Australia, June 10 (UPI) -- Generations of domestication have eroded dogs' problem-solving skills, Australian researchers found.

Dr. Bradley Smith of the School of Psychology at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, who led the study, said pet dogs trail their wild cousins -- wolves and dingoes -- when it comes to thinking for themselves, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

Pet dogs are so reliant on humans they have lost the ability to think for themselves, the Australian researchers' study has shown.

"Wolves will outperform dogs on any problem-solving tasks that are non-social," Smith told the Telegraph.

"Often feral dogs survive by taking advantage of human leftovers -- perhaps scrounged or from rubbish -- or domestic livestock.

"It would take a lot of generations of successful dogs to start fostering any such cognitive abilities required for survival in the wild."

The researchers tested domesticated dogs, wolves and dingoes by placing a bowl of food behind a fence. The wolves and dingoes took only about 20 seconds to figure out they needed to move along the fence away from the food to find a swinging door and then double back to the food. The pet dogs in the study, however, merely pawed and dug at the fence and barked, going hungry.

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