Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dogs Are Still Wolves In Many Ways-- Journal for Monday

It's easy for me to relate to dogs. Sometimes, I ascribe human characteristics to them: their "smiles", their need to be close, the expressiveness of their eyes and body language, their need for comfort and protection from fearful situations.  I chuckle then and remember with amusement that they still share instincts with the creatures from which they evolved....wolves.  Recently I noticed two pictures I had stuck to the refrigerator, one of Maggie, and one of a wolf on a greeting card, would look terrific side by side...and really drove home the Dog-Wolf Connection!  (PBS' Nova series did a terrific piece with this title.)

I smile when I consider that this.... 

Evolved from this:

Yet, it is true that our pet dogs' primary ancestor was in fact the wolf.  Dogs were the first animals to be domesticated, most likely at the end of the Ice Age.  Records suggest that the first domesticated dogs were found in Germany around 14, 000 BC.  Further studies show that dogs diverged genetically from wolves much earlier.

There are 38 spieces of dog, with dogs and wolves only a small percentage, which also include foxes and jackals.  The American Kennel Club recognizes 140 breeds, defining a breed as a "relatively homogeneous group of animals within a species, developed and maintained by man."

Dogs rely less on visual communication than wolves, although dogs have  a more developed  sense of smell.  Selective breeding was responsible for producing, for example, dogs with drooping ears, shorter tails or long coats.  Earliest domesticated dogs helped men find game that was injured while hunting.  Playing fetch with a dog is a throwback to that instictual activity.

The wolf's pack is its entire life.  Even in our homes, all members of the household are part of the dog's "pack".   For wolves, howling is the glue that keeps the pack together. Some have speculated that howling strengthens the social bonds between packmates; the pack that howls together, stays together.  Some dogs still call out to us when they are alone.  And some breeds are still as likely to produce a howl as a whine or a bark....sounds which wolves also make.

While dogs can be considered a re-invention of their wolf ancestors, they have not lost all of their natural instincts or characteristics.  Something to think about as I seek to make changes....

So...what's in a howl? 

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Tom!

    There's no denying the similarity to the baying of some old hound dog and the plaintive cries of the noble wolf. Although in the case of my dogs the meaning is probably more akin to wanting us to open a can of dog food or a belly rub instead of a trying to attract a mate or locate their pack.

    I find it interesting that I can look at such a fearsome animal as a wolf and feel the love I have for dogs ebbing outwards while at the same time looking at the natural ferocity of some dogs (even Chihuahuas!) and have great respect for their instinctively aggressive behavior.

    To them, they are not that far removed from the wolf. At least, a wolf that lives indoors and is waited on and spoiled....but I digress.