Teaming Up with Wolves

3 x 52 min / 3 x 45 min

What is the difference between the domestic dog and the wolf if both of them have been raised under the same conditions? What skills got lost and which were gained in the process of domestication? How far are wolves prepared to co-operate with humans, and do they accept domestic dogs as co-operation partners? To get answers to these questions, researchers Friederike Range, Zsofia Viranyi and Professor Kurt Kotrschal have taken up the task – for the first time ever in canid research – to raise a pack of wolves by hand. Wolves can stay wolf while they are also able to develop an intimate relationship to their human partners. The Wolf Science Center currently holds three one-year old timber wolves and six pups. Two of the pups came from the Zoo Basel and the other four had a long journey behind them: they were born in Kalispell, the northwest of the USA and were picked up from there at the age of eight days by two staff members of the WSC and the film team. The pups had to travel 4200 kilometers by car before being put on board an airplane in New York to head to Vienna. Aside from the usual baby bottles, this time the stewardesses also had to warm up liquid food for the wolf pups. In the beginning the animals need extensive attention. The intimate rapport with humans and wolves primarily happens through feeding with the bottle and close body contact at night. Only the ones that sleep with them under the blanket will later count as a close confidante. But this is only part of the wolf researchers’ everyday life. As soon as the pups turn two months, the daily training will start. They have to learn to listen to their names and follow instructions like „sit“, „lay“, „turn“. They are taken for walks out in the woods with four months and shortly thereafter clicker training will begin and work with the touch screen. It is not yet possible to say which task dogs can do better or worse than wolves, if any. Only one thing is clear: wolves act more independent from humans. They are more solution-oriented than dogs, but they are also very moody. There are days, on which the animals refuse to cooperate. One can demand from dogs that they „sit“ or „lay“ without being rewarded with a tidbit afterwards. It is different with wolves: no action without a goody. The film follows the four American pups for a full year and records their upbringing, their progress in the daily work, their social development and their behavior in the various testing centers. The everyday lives of the researchers, the wolves and the dogs that take part in this research project are shown throughout several shooting periods. The film team also benefits from the animals’ trust since they had close contact with them from the start. This relationship with the wolves has greatly helped the film. The film will be ready by the time the test results have been analyzed. This means that it will be known by then which characteristics and skills differentiate the wolf from the dog.

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