Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #380A
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
How Do Similarly Raised Wolves and Dogs Relate to Their Human Companions? Looking at Dog Domestication From a Behavioural and Hormonal Perspective
Monday, May 31, 2021
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Erica N. Feuerbacher (Virginia Tech)
CE Instructor: Nathaniel Hall, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: SARAH MARSHALL-PESCINI (Domestication Lab, Wolf Science Centre, Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, Veterinary Medicine University of Vienna, Austria)

Basic differences in dogs’ and wolves’ propensity to bond with humans were already detected by early researcher such as Zimen and Klinghammer, especially in relation to the early human exposure needed as puppies to establish stable intraspecific social bonds. Building on this early work, the Wolf Science Centre (Austria) raises wolves and dogs from puppyhood providing intensive human socialization, thereby allowing animals to build strong bonds with their human companions, which last their entire life. Here I will present results investigating wolf-dog similarities and differences in their preferences, contact-seeking behaviours and cooperative inclination with humans. Results will include both behavioural and hormonal aspects, with a particular focus on oxytocin and cortisol, which have been hypothesized to play an important role in the domestication process.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

dog research scientists, dog trainers, educators, general interested public

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) discuss the importance of keeping environmental and ontogenetic aspects constant in wolf-dog behavioural comparisons and consider this factor when evaluating scientific studies; (2) discuss the scientific approach of the Wolf Science Centre; (3) expand their view of "dogs" to include free-ranging dogs, as a highly in interesting study population and one worthy of protection.
SARAH MARSHALL-PESCINI (Domestication Lab, Wolf Science Centre, Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, Veterinary Medicine University of Vienna, Austria)

Sarah Marshall-Pescini graduated in Psychology from St. Andrews University and then went on to do her Ph.D. at the same university working with Andy Whiten on social learning in children and chimpanzees. Most of the work was carried out in Uganda, with both sanctuary and wild chimps. After the Ph.D. she returned to Italy, her home country, and worked at Milan University for 8 years, setting up, together with Emanuela Prato-Previde, a small (but lively) dog cognition lab. Since 2013 she has joined the team at Wolf Science Centre and the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology (Veterinary University of Vienna) as a senior scientist. Her research focuses on the social behaviour of wolves and dogs. Since 2016 she co-supervises a fieldsite studying free-ranging dogs in Morocco and another studying wild wolves in the Italian Apennines. She has published over 50 scientific papers in top journals in her field, and co-edited a volume for Elsevier (Kaminski, J, Marshall-Pescini, S. The Social Dog: cognition and behavior).




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