The idea was that once the animals knew the target, we could hang it over the treadmill and it would act as a guide for them to step on the treadmill. And this worked really well.They started the target training with the treadmill off, but Kortekaas says as the dogs and wolves seemed secure stepping onto the treadmill, they put it on the lowest speed. They increased the speed slowly but surely, and after a couples months, they had running dogs and no need for the targets. With the animals up and running, the next phase of the research can begin. Lead researcher Kurt Kotrschal says the goal of the treadmill project is to have two or more animals running together to see how well they run and whether this affects their willingness to share food afterward.
Wolves are social hunters, and we expect a great willingness to cooperate in wolves, but less so in dogs.They also want to expand to wolf-human dyads. Kotrschal jogged with a wolf named Kaspar as a trial. Kotrschal says:
Questions of how well wolves and dogs coordinate with humans are, again, relevant for domestication.Since wolves run together as a pack, researchers think the treadmill should be a more natural way of testing how willing the animals are to work and run together and share their food afterward. Stay updated on their progress via The Wolf Center’s Facebook and Twitter.
H/t Wolf Science Center Tumblr Featured image via Robert Bayer