Are Dogs Any Different Than Wolves?
Dogs are not wolves.
Most of us who like dogs also appreciate the beauty of wolves, and many dog owners even think they want their dogs to be wolves. They are not the same thing, and we should be glad about that.
This concept should not be that hard to understand, but again and again I come across people who tell me they are treating their dog in a certain manner because dogs are just like wolves.
But are they alike?
Dog And Wolf DNA Is Not The Same
DNA testing has revealed that dogs are probably descended from wolves. This probably took place at least 15,000 years ago, but maybe even more. A dog skull has been found in Siberia and been dated at over 30,000 years of age!
A lot has happened since then. And just because dogs share a lot of DNA with wolves, and are descended from wolves, time has passed and they are not the same as wolves.
(In fact, their DNA relationship with wolves is similar to that of people to chimpanzees. This is debatable, of course, as are all things related to DNA, dogs, and science.
As the trainer Ian Dunbar pointed out, though, no human couples raise their children similar to chimps. In the same way, dogs should not be raised similar to wolves.)
Dogs Have Different Personalities Than Wolves
So if dogs are descended from wolves, why are their personalities so different? There are several reasons. One of them is because of the things around them.
Wolves hunt large game, and the only way to take down large animals is by using teamwork. Dogs are a facultatively social species and act more like coyotes living alone when little large game is available.
They live singly or in small groups, surviving from a food bowl and not needing a pack and not acting like they are part of a pack. Domestic dogs do not need to fight for limited food resources, nor do they need to compete for breeding opportunities.
There is probably a lot of other things going on. Except for a good Jack London story, dogs do not really escape and become wolves. I take care of several feral dogs, and a feral dog is very different than a tame wolf.
From the beginning, the dogs that we have were probably the wolves that were calmest and most tractable. This personality trait has been emphasized over the thousands of years that dogs have lived with humans.
Even if they had not changed much in all of the years, they would probably not be much like the shy wolves that run as soon as they notice any humans.
So treating a dog like a wolf, and assuming he is going to act like a pack animal, is wrong. It should not be assumed that a dog is trying to control resources, like the dominant wolf, nor that he is trying to claim his right to breed.
A dog should not be condemned because he does not fit into the “pack leader and follower” mode. A dog is not trying to dominate you to move ahead in the pack hierarchy. A dog is not doing everything he can to pass on his genes.
A dog is just being himself. Dogs are not wolves.
Dogs Sleep Differently Than Wolves
Crates are often justified because we are told they are just like the dens used by wolves. There is a big problem with that argument. Dogs are not wolves.
Dogs do not sleep in a den. Even feral dogs, with no home to sleep in every night, only dig a den when they are about to whelp. They use it when the puppies are born and abandon it a few weeks later.
Except when dogs are caring for young puppies or are stressed out, like Elizabeth Marshall Thomas´ dogs in The Hidden Life of Dogs, they do not need or want to use a den.
So why do so many dog owners justify their use of a cage by saying “dogs are just like wolves and it is natural”? It is not natural.
Dogs are not wolves.
Dogs Eat Differently Than Wolves
Dogs Eat Differently
“Dogs are just like wolves” is not a reason to feed a raw diet.
A raw diet has a lot of benefits, and I feed my dog a raw natural diet because of those benefits, not because this is what wolves eat. If you choose to feed your dog a cooked food, and use vegetables and other foods that a wolf does not eat, it is not wrong.
Dogs are not obligate carnivores. They are able to scavenge and survive on whatever they happen to come across. Feral dogs tend to look for garbage, kill lizards and rodents, and even eat vegetables or fruit.
Dogs are not wolves.
Allow Your Dog To Be A Dog
Dogs are usually smaller, weighing about 15 or 20 kilos (30 or 40 pounds). Most of them do not weigh as much as a wolf, are not built like a wolf, and do not act like a wolf.
They are social, however, but social in a way that is quite different from a wolf. Do not assume that your dog is part of the pack and is locked into a pack mentality.
- Dogs do not compete for food and other resources like wolves.
- Dogs do not compete for the right to breed like wolves.
- Dogs are not den animals, like wolves.
- Dogs do not hunt and eat in the same way as wolves.
- Dogs do not have a pack structure like wolves.
You can own a dog that looks like a wolf. No matter what your dog looks like, though, it is not a wolf.
Allow your dog to be a dog.
This is the way that wolves hunt. Dogs do not act like this.
Questions & Answers
Is there evidence that a raw diet is healthier than kibble for dogs?
No, there is only anecdotal evidence. People that change from dry dog food to a raw diet notice the improvements. There have been no controlled studies done, and since the big dog food companies control groups like that (through donations), there probably never will be.