Monday, 15 July 2019

It's dog eat dog on the canine social ladder

Date:  July 2, 2019
Source:  University of Exeter
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.

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