Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Michael D. Breed

Second Advisor

Christy M. McCain

Third Advisor

Daniel M. Medeiros


I explore how human communicative behavior influenced the evolutionary process of domestication of dogs. To do this I focus on the speech pattern "Motherese," often used by humans when interacting with their dogs. Motherese is a vocal pattern used by human parents to comfort and amuse their children. By comparing the effectiveness of motherese in human encounters with captive, socialized wolves, dogs, and hybrids we can begin to understand if domestication was influenced by the auditory communication patterns of humans. Dogs showed a strong preference for women speaking with motherese. Wolves and wolf-dog hybrids did not show a preference for one auditory stimulus over another. Human behavior influenced the behavior of the domesticated dogs, but not the socialized wolves. These results support the hypothesis that domestication shaped the way humans and dogs effectively communicate with one another, and that dogs are capable of understanding human intent better than socialized wolves.