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The Wolf in Your Dog
Evolutionary pathways
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"Though in their deep heart’s core, there is a commonality of origin, spirit, emotional intelligence and empathetic sensibility, the wild wolf looks through us, while the dog looks to us. "

Of all the myriad members of the animal kingdom, the domesticated dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is closest to us. With individual exceptions in other species, this canine species is the most understanding, if not also the most observant, of human behavior—of our actions and intentions. This is why dogs are so responsive to us, even mirroring or mimicking our behavior. And it is why dogs are so trainable.

Fear in unsocialized and abused dogs interferes with their attentiveness to and interpretation of human behavior and intentions. This is one reason wild species like the coyote and wolf, even when born and raised in captivity, are difficult to train. The wolf “Tiny,” whom I bottle-raised and intensely socialized during her formative early days, never really lost her fear and distrust of strangers.

Tiny did not start mirroring human behavior until she was close to nine years old. At this point, she began to mimic the human-to-human greeting grin, revealing her front teeth as she curled her lips into a snarly smile. In my experience, dogs who can do this do so at a much earlier age, even as early as four to six months.

In comparing socialized (human-bonded) wolves and dogs in terms of how they have related to me as well as to my family members, friends and strangers, I would say that the main difference between the two species is the fear factor. Differences in trainability hinge on this; as I theorize in my new book (Dog Body, Dog Mind), domestication has altered the tuning of the dog’s adrenal and autonomic nervous systems. This tuning (which dampens adrenal fright, flight and fight reactions and possibly alters brain serotonin levels), is accomplished through selective breeding for docility, and by gentle handling during the critical period for socialization.

According to the earlier research of my mentors—Drs. John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller of the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine—pups with no human contact during this critical socialization period (which ends around 12 to 16 weeks of age) are wild and unapproachable.

When we peel off the wolf’s innate fearfulness and put it on the dog, we turn the dog into a feral facsimile of a wolf. But a human-socialized wolf without fear could be an extremely dangerous animal, even attacking a human perceived as a pack rival. This happened to me in the 1970s during the filming of the NBC documentary, “The Wolf Men.” An alpha male wolf, along with his female cagemate who was in heat, had been released into a large wooded compound belonging to my friend, the late wildlife illustrator and conservationist Dick Grossenheider. Earlier that memorable morning, the she-wolf had greeted and solicited me, a total stranger, when I had visited the two wolves in their enclosure. (I am not saying that a male dog would never react to me in a similar way under comparable circumstances; I was once urinated on by the alpha male lead sled dog of a well-known racing pack in a similar situation.)

Canine Evolution and Human Needs
The genetic, neurochemical, physical, sensory and cognitive differences between dogs and wolves are considerable, and are a consequence of the domestication process, during which docile, easy to handle/eager to please and compliant wolf-dogs were preferentially bred to better serve various human uses. Similarly, the differences between dog breeds (as a consequence of selective breeding) are no less considerable. Within their own species, dogs differ far more from each other than do wolves amongst themselves. These evident differences in canine temperament I see as indicating that dogs initially domesticated themselves. Those who could most easily tolerate close human presence became the shepherds’ and livestock keepers’ allies against wild predators, poachers and thieves, or the game hunters’ super-extended senses and agile cohorts for the chase, alone or in a pack.

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Submitted by D | August 14 2011 |

"fright, flight and fight reactions" are just that: reactions. But, when an animal has experience of a thing, the reactions are altered or rather dampened. The animal doesn’t live moment by moment in fright or flight, but becomes aware of the shift in the environment by the valuation or measure that the animal has made over time since birth.
The construct of needing to exist determines the value of experiences in the animal’s mind. If food keeps coming to the animal from the human the human becomes valuable. But, the quality and quantity of the value is made solely by the animal. The human’s value to the animal can shift as needed and as altered by environment.
Does an animal think they are captivated? When do they? Are they not measuring the alteration of their perspective and acting accordingly? When differences are presented, are the differences inspected, measured and given value? Does the measured value help in the animal propel itself through the environment?

Submitted by Anonymous | May 5 2013 |

Michael W. Fox, DVM, PhD states in his article, “The genetic, neurochemical, physical, sensory and cognitive differences between dogs and wolves are considerable, and are a consequence of the domestication process, during which docile, easy to handle/eager to please and compliant wolf-dogs were preferentially bred to better serve various human uses. Similarly, the differences between dog breeds (as a consequence of selective breeding) are no less considerable. Within their own species, dogs differ far more from each other than do wolves amongst themselves. These evident differences in canine temperament I see as indicating that dogs initially domesticated themselves.”

The peer-reviewed journal Nature has an article “Origins of domestic dog in Southern East Asia is supported by analysis of Y-chromosome DNA”
By Z-Ding et al from Heredity (2012) that states:
Global mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) data indicates that the dog originates from domestication of wolf in Asia South of Yangtze River (ASY), with minor genetic contributions from dog–wolf hybridisation elsewhere. Archaeological data and autosomal single nucleotide polymorphism data have instead suggested that dogs originate from Europe and/or South West Asia but, because these datasets lack data from ASY, evidence pointing to ASY may have been overlooked. Analyses of additional markers for global datasets, including ASY, are therefore necessary to test if mtDNA phylogeography reflects the actual dog history and not merely stochastic events or selection. Here, we analyse 14 437 bp of Y-chromosome DNA sequence in 151 dogs sampled worldwide. We found 28 haplotypes distributed in five haplogroups. Two haplogroups were universally shared and included three haplotypes carried by 46% of all dogs, but two other haplogroups were primarily restricted to East Asia. Highest genetic diversity and virtually complete phylogenetic coverage was found within ASY. The 151 dogs were estimated to originate from 13–24 wolf founders, but there was no indication of post-domestication dog–wolf hybridisations. Thus, Y-chromosome and mtDNA data give strikingly similar pictures of dog phylogeography, most importantly that roughly 50% of the gene pools are shared universally but only ASY has nearly the full range of genetic diversity, such that the gene pools in all other regions may derive from ASY. This corroborates that ASY was the principal, and possibly sole region of wolf domestication, that a large number of wolves were domesticated, and that subsequent dog–wolf hybridisation contributed modestly to the dog gene pool.

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