Social context influences resting physiology in dogs



Domestication has affected the social life of dogs. They seem to be less dependent on their pack members than wolves, potentially causing dogs to be more alert towards their environment, especially when resting. Such a response has been found in dogs resting alone compared to wolves in the same situation. However, as this may be influenced by social context, we compared alertness (i.e., degree of activation along the sleep–wake continuum—measured via cardiac parameters) of pack-living and enclosure-kept dogs in two conditions: (1) alone, and (2) with pack members, and in two states of activation: (1) inactive wakefulness, and (2) resting. We found that when dogs were resting alone, alertness was higher than when resting in the pack; individual alertness was potentially influenced by social rank. However, alertness was similar in the two conditions during inactive wakefulness. Thus, depending on social context, familiar conspecifics may still provide support in dogs; i.e., domestication has probably only partly shifted the social orientation of dogs from conspecifics to humans. We suggest that cardiac responses of dogs may be more flexible than those of wolves because of their adaptation to the more variable presence of humans and conspecifics in their environment. 

Kortekaas, K., & Kotrschal, K. (2020). Social context influences resting physiology in dogs. Animals, 10(12), 1-15. [2214].