All dog owners will tell you how smart their beloved canine is, and they're right, dogs are incredibly intelligent and capable. However, in the wild, wolves show enhanced decision making capabilities that humans have actually bred out of domesticated dogs. Our domestication of wolves has resulted in some domestic canines being so submissive that they actually dumb themselves down.
Wolves naturally play off of each other and make team decisions, which makes for simple problem solving in the wild. Due to our severe domestication of dogs we have made them submissive to the point where many canines are not able to think on their own without a human giving a command. This may contribute to the fact that stray dogs have a very difficult time surviving on their own. Here’s the real kicker, this “dumbed down behavior” is not found in puppies. Various experiments have been done and have concluded that puppies do the same tasks as wolves in the wild.
To prove this a couple of different studies were used, such as "The detour task." This test looks at spatial problem solving skills. At the Dingo Discovery Centre in Victoria, Austrailia, this test was set up for wolves and domesticated dogs. It required the subject to walk around a transparent screen to get food as a reward. The screen was a V shaped fence with detour doors that would swing in or out. The “reward” in this case the bowl of food as placed at the intersection of the “V” screen. The subject would be on the opposite side of the screen. For the test the scientists put dogs and wolves in different pairings, such as a high ranking dog with low ranking wolf. They also paired up one high ranking wolf and one low ranking wolf. In all the tests the “Alpha” would try to take control of the food. In the wolf tests both wolves were able to eat together, even though they were mildly aggressive. However, in the domesticated dog tests the lower ranking dog would back down and did not try to eat during the tests.
Wolves have more of a “team huddle” when facing a problem they are very cooperative with each other. Dogs, on the other hand, do no show this behavior. Instead the “Alpha” may act aggressively towards their lower ranking members of their pack.
Both dingoes and wolves aced their tests. Meanwhile, their domestic counter parts seemed dumbfounded by the test. The domestic dogs tried everything from pawing at the fence to barking at it trying to call for help. Dingoes were able to complete the task within 20 seconds, taking the detour doors as often as possible. "Wolves will outperform dogs on any problem-solving tasks that are non-social," says Smith. "Dogs are great at social tasks - communicating with humans, using humans as tools, learning from humans via observation - whereas wolves are much better at general problem solving."A few other studies have been done, on both wolves and other wild canines. The studies found that wolves are better than dogs at using tools such at ropes for general problem solving.
While dogs are incredibly smart creatures, in training their behavior to be more convenient for us humans, we have taken away this important thinking process for them.