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Understanding the Proximate Mechanisms of Canine Cooperation (CanCoop)
Start date: Feb 1, 2013, End date: Jan 31, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Although it is clear that human collaborative skills are exceptional, elucidating similarities and differences of proximate processes underlying cooperative interactions between non-primate and primate taxa may have important implications for our understanding of cooperation in humans and non human-animals via a profound knowledge of 1) socio-cognitive skills as adaptations to specific environments and/or 2) the evolutionary background and origin of our own skills. The closely related wolves and dogs constitute the ideal non-primate model to implement this approach, since cooperation is at the core of their social organization and they are adapted to very different environments.I propose a series of experiments with wolves (N = 20) and identically raised and kept dogs (N= 20) that will focus on cognitive processes closely linked to the emotional system such as empathy, inequity aversion and delayed gratification that are thought to be involved in triggering and maintaining primate cooperation. In Part 1 of the project, we will investigate whether and to what extent these processes are present in canines, while in Part 2 we will elucidate how they influence partner choice in cooperative interactions. Using social network theory, we will integrate knowledge about animals’ emotional tendencies and cognitive abilities to model canine cooperation. This is an important step towards unifying theoretical and empirical approaches in animal behaviour.CanCoop incorporates innovative methods and a novel approach that has the potential to elucidate the interactions between proximate and ultimate processes in regard to cooperation. The nature of CanCoop guarantees public and media attention needed for proper societal dissemination of the results, which will be relevant for animal behaviour, social sciences, wildlife and zoo management.
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