The domesticated dog (Canis familiaris) has undergone a vast number of genetic and environmental changes since its divergence from the wolf (Canis lupus) approximately 100,000 years ago (Call et al., 2003). However, the basic pack social structure of wolves has remained unchanged throughout evolutionary time; it can still be observed in the domesticated dog. What has changed is that humans have become integrated into the pack structure. The goal of this study was to assess the exact position humans have acquired within the dominance hierarchy that modulates dog social interactions. This was done by observing dogs at a local dog park and recording the following behavioral traits related to dominance: latency to leaving an owner’s side, the total time spent away from an owner, and the number of glances directed at an owner. The data from these observations suggest that the establishment of dominance roles between dog and owner is dependent on the sex of both dog and owner. Male dogs exhibit more behaviors characteristic of dominant individuals than female dogs, and dogs appear to treat male owners in a more dominant manner than they do female owners. These findings have practical applications, as a better understanding of dog behavior in relation to humans may be useful when training dogs or when treating a dog that exhibits behavioral problems including over-aggressiveness. Furthermore, through an understanding of sex-dependent dog behavior, a prospective dog owner can make a more educated choice when picking a pet.
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