Global Security Initiative

What Is The Secret of Dogs’ Success In A Human-Dominated World?

November 5, 2020

For decades scientists have been arguing about what makes dogs special. One widespread view is that the secret of dogs’ success in human society is a special form of social cognition. Perhaps dogs, in the approximately 15,000 years since they became distinct from wolves, acquired skills in reading peoples’ actions and intentions that are unique among all animal species. I shall present findings from my own group and others that show that there is in fact nothing remarkable about the social cognition of dogs. Dogs perform well at following the implications of human actions, but no more so than other animals that have been hand-reared from an early age and made completely dependent on human beings to have all of their biological needs met.

Instead, I believe that the essential and unique quality of dogs is their ability to form affectionate bonds with members of other species. Dogs show exceptional motivation to interact with members of other species. I will review evidence that during domestication dogs became exceptionally motivated and reinforced by social interaction. “Man’s best friend” may be a cliché, but like many stereotypes, it has some basis in fact.

Bio: Dr. Clive Wynne was born on the Isle of Wright, off the south coast of England, studied at University College London, and got his Ph.D. at Edinburgh University before setting off on his travels. After time at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum, Duke University, Universitat Konstanz, the University of Western Australia and the University of Florida, he came to Arizona State University in 2013. Over the years he has studied the behavior of many species – ranging from pigeons to dunnarts (a small mouse-like marsupial), but some years ago he found a way to meld his childhood love of dogs with his professional training and now he studies and teaches the behavior of dogs and their wild relatives.

10:30 am – 11:30 am Talk

11:30 am – 12:00 pm Q&A

Zoom Information:

Password: 418075

Or Telephone: US: +1 699 900 6833 or

+1 720 928 9299

Meeting ID: 994 6994 5474

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