Nav: Home

It's dog eat dog on the canine social ladder

July 02, 2019

Climbing the social ladder is a ruff business for dogs, new research shows.

Top dogs in a pack are known to assert their dominance, but scientists studied a group of free-roaming mongrels and found high levels of aggression in the middle of the dominance hierarchy.

Most theories predict more aggression higher up the ladder. However, the researchers say the difficulty of working out the pecking order in the crowded middle leads to aggression.

The research was carried out by the University of Exeter (UK) and by the Veterinary Service of the Local Health Unit Rome 3 (Italy).

"Our results reveal the unavoidable costs of climbing a dominance hierarchy," said Dr Matthew Silk, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

"In the middle of the hierarchy - where it's harder to predict which animal should be dominant - we see lots of aggression."

Professor Robbie McDonald said: "Fighting over food and mates uses energy and time and can lead to injuries, so hierarchies play an important role because animals know their place without needing to fight."

The year-long study examined a pack of 27 mongrel dogs that roamed freely in the suburbs of Rome.

The dogs did not live with humans, although they relied on humans for food.

Their hierarchy was based on age and sex, with adults dominant over younger dogs and males dominant over females of the same age group.

"Although fights within a social group of free-roaming dogs are usually characterised by low-intensity aggression, the middle of the hierarchy is occupied by young males of similar size and age, among whom nothing is definitive and for whom the challenge is to gain rank," said Dr Simona Cafazzo, of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.

"Our results confirm that these dogs have an age-graded dominance hierarchy similar to that of wolves," added Dr Eugenia Natoli, of the Veterinary Service of the Local Health Unit Rome 3.

Dominant behaviour included a stiff, upright body, holding the head and tail high and laying a paw on another dog's back.

Submissive behaviour included avoiding eye contact, holding the head and ears low and lying down with the chest and stomach exposed.
-end-
The research was partly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

The paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is entitled: "Elevated aggression is associated with uncertainty in a network of dog dominance interactions."

University of Exeter

Related Aggression Articles:

Solitude breeds aggression in spiders (rather than vice versa)
Spiders start out social but later turn aggressive after dispersing and becoming solitary, according to a study publishing July 2 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Raphael Jeanson of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, and colleagues.
Interparental aggression often co-occurs with aggression toward kids
Parents in the midst of a psychologically or physically aggressive argument tend to also be aggressive with their children, according to researchers at Penn State.
Familiarity breeds aggression
Aggressiveness among animals may increase the longer individuals live together in stable groups.
Study examines development of physical aggression in children as they age
Children can exhibit physical aggression when they are very young but that behavior typically declines before and during elementary school.
Heat, weekends, aggression and Chicago summer shootings
It happens all too often each summer: yet another litany of weekend shootings in Chicago appears in the news.
More Aggression News and Aggression Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...