The Science of Dogs: Dogs Vs. Wolves

     While watching The Science of Dogs, one portion of the documentary that interested me was the comparison of domestic dogs verses wolves.  I knew beforehand that dogs and wolves behaved differently, but it was not until now that I knew much about these differences.  Wolves depend upon their pack only, while dogs have been taught to rely on humans to meet many of their needs.  The difference must be extreme for it to have been so obvious in the demonstration with the meat and rope from the documentary!   (For anyone in the class that watched the other documentary:  A piece of meat was tied to a rope, and a wolf kept pulling at it and trying to solve the problem for itself while the dog almost immediately looked to the nearby human for help.) 

     I found this experiment and its results fascinating, so I looked up more differences between dogs and wolves and thought I would share some of what I found. 

  • Dog and wolf puppies being their prime “period of socialization” at different times—dogs at four weeks, and wolves at two weeks (before their sight, hearing, and sense of smell have had time to develop.)  This means a wolf puppy needs human contact earlier if one’s goal is to raise it to trust humans. 
  • Many dogs have lost the ability to hunt—their teeth are too small thanks to their adaptation to a different diet! 
  • Wolves can only be minimally trained, and this training has no effect on future generations.  This makes dogs much more ideal pets. 
  • Apparently dogs can pick out human words in a stream of speech without special training, while there is no evidence that wolves, even raised in captivity, can do so.  Dogs can also read human emotion through body language.  They really have become man’s best friend!

      Learning all of this really made me appreciate my dog!  It’s interesting seeing how similar dogs and wolves might appear at first glance, and then discovering all of these differences.  

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2 thoughts on “The Science of Dogs: Dogs Vs. Wolves

  1. Hey there!

    I love wolves as well, and am really glad you went into them with your post. They are definitely adapted to the wild rather than humans, which is a good thing but also a factor in their diminishing populations. I just looked up a map on wikipedia of the current habitat range of Gray Wolves, and it seems to be around half of its original span. This is due to habitat destruction.

    If we’re not careful, one day this class will be called ‘Lack of Biodiversity of Earth.’

  2. Pingback: The history of the wolf and dog | Learning from Dogs

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