Wolves & Dogs

Domestication of our dogs has come a long way, Rover. The first steps on the long road to leashes and puppy chow may have taken tens of 1000s' of years. Scientists generally agree there is a good amount of evidence dogs were domesticated around 30,000 years ago. Around 14,000 years back, people were burying dogs, sometimes alongside their human masters.

Domesticated Dogs vs Wolves

Is your dog super-aggressive or super-friendly? Is he an Alpha Male or your hyper-social best friend? These differences might be what distinguishes your pup from nature’s wolves. Recent research and analysis of DNA show that genes in Canis lupus are very different than those found in our household canines.

Behavior not Expected in Wolves

"There are some hypotheses out there that the ability to understand human social cues is a unique dog trait, a trait that arose after domestication had been initiated," scientist Christina Hansen Wheat explains, "so fetching on command is not a behavior expected in wolves."

Testing Wolf-pups

Scientific testing was done with dog breeders first. They studied how wolf-pups acted in social situations. The fetching test just happened to be part of a new series of research.

One of the researchers conducting the test threw a tennis ball and urged the pup to retrieve it and bring it back. Two litters of puppies flunked the first series.

"There are some hypotheses out there that the ability to understand human social cues is a unique dog trait, a trait that arose after domestication had been initiated," Hansen Wheat explains."

But then a third litter went through the tests. In this go, one of the wolf puppies went for the ball and returned it to the tester, according to a report in the journal iScience.

"When I saw the first puppy fetch — I still get goosebumps when I talk about this — it was such a surprise," Hansen Wheat says. "That was very exciting."

Evan MacLean, who studies dog cognition at the University of Arizona, says this is an interesting observation that no one has made before.

Game of Throne Direwolves are Dogs?

For those who confuse some dog breeds with wolves, they may looking at the wrong dogs.  Northern Inuits (direwolves), for instance, is a crossbreed dog that was an attempt to create a domestic dog breed more closely resembling a wolf.

The Stark family's famous direwolves in the Game of Thrones are not really wolves at all, though they certainly look wolf-like. They are really a group of specially-trained Northern Inuit Dogs, a crossbred relative of the Siberian Husky.

So, if fetching is something that doesn't need that much training, can 'sitting up' and 'laying down' be far behind? And can it finally disprove Lord Byron's famous quip: "Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey?" After all, Kevin Costner has had his turn at Dances with the Wolves for some time now. So fetch it!

 

Primary Source: NPR

 

 

 

 

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