Humans are not apes. Dogs are not wolves.
Dogs are often seen as the enemy by many of today’s tabloids; according to The Times, there have been 7,227 hospital admissions linked to dog attacks in the last 12 months, many of which involved children under nine years old. Dogs are loud, aggressive and potentially dangerous.. right? Some would even go as far as to say that we are letting slightly smaller versions of wolves into our homes and offering them a life of luxury whilst putting our own lives on the line in doing so.
I don’t agree in the slightest. Would a wolf let you put him on a lead and take him for a walk? Would a wolf eat dry kibble out of a dog bowl? Would a wolf paw at you until you agree to scratch his tummy? But this article goes into a little more detail about just why dogs are so different from wolves; and how it’s dangerous to treat man’s best friend as if he’s the dangerous wolf we sometimes see him to be. I’m here to try and show you the difference between the two cousins: the dog and the wolf.
Let’s first take a look at the physical differences between dogs and wolves. Does your Standard Poodle, Labrador, Border Collie (insert pretty much whichever breed of dog you’d like) look like a wolf? Do you think you could honestly look me in the eye and tell me that my 5.6kg Miniature Poodle/Shih-Tzu cross snoring at my feet is a wolf? Still, there are dogs out there who do look very similar to wolves (huskies, for example). But there are still some major differences (to name a few only here):
- A dog’s nails are a clear, pinkish colour similar to a humans whilst a wolf’s would not be. Wolf puppies have darkened nails, but by the time they’re properly running around their claws begin to darken until they’re almost black.
- Dogs have significantly smaller paws than a wolf. Wolves’ paws are extremely large and have two front toes that stick out to give them extra grip and speed. How many times have you seen dogs on “You’ve Been Framed” slip on a polished floor? That’s because they have smaller, rounded feet that are padded for life in a city.
- A wolf has extremely large canine teeth which can grow up to 2 inches long perfectly designed to rip into prey. A dog is fed kibble or wet food served to them in a dish and doesn’t need such sharp, strong teeth and so its canines are generally straighter and smaller.
Over the years we seem to have become obsessed with the idea of asserting dominance over dogs, yet I struggle to find any legitimate reason as to why. The idea of eating before your dog (especially if you eat as late as my family does in the evenings) to establish yourself an an Alpha seems to have no impact whatsoever and is entirely based off of misguided beliefs. If you were to watch a pack of wolves eating after a hunt, you would see the elderly, the weak (e.g expecting mothers), and the young eating first and the strongest holding back until the others have finished. Wolves are a pack and work as a team, meaning they value each member of their family and make sure everyone is provided for. So making your dog wait until you’ve finished your evening meal seems to do nothing except make it more likely to beg at the table as they get hungry.
Up until recently, many of the world’s top dog “experts”, trainers and behaviour specialists have claimed that, to have a good and healthy relationship with your dog, you must establish a hierarchy in your family similar to the hierarchy in a pack of wolves. As I mentioned above, this so-called “hierarchy” is already twisted, but I have a horrible little anecdote to share with you all to try and persuade slightly more cynical readers. One of the first puppy training classes I took my dog to had a teacher that insisted we should learn something called the “dominance rollover”. This is a manoveur where you grab your dog by its sides, wrestle it to the ground so you have it pinned by its shoulders lying on its back, and then look it in the eye (and possibly bare your teeth) for the count of five. At the time, my 14 week-old puppy weighed just under 2kg and had real incontinence problems (which we later discovered to be due to a misplaced bladder, but that’s another story). So it’s safe to say I didn’t go back. The “dominance rollover” is based on the idea that an Alpha in a pack of wolves would pin a naughty puppy to the ground and growl at them to let them know who’s boss. Which is, as before, completely fictional as wolf pups that act up are normally greeted with an unfriendly glare or snarl, or possibly a quick nip round the ear.
Finally (I’d love to go on, but we’d be here all night), the differences in behaviour between dogs and wolves are endless but I’ll just focus on the one for today. Most humans hate that high pitched whine dogs can come out with whenever they’re sad, be it that they’re separated from their owners or declined a treat. Yet that noise is actually of huge significance when separating dogs from wolves. All wolf pups whine when they’re hungry, bored, tired, etc. to get their mother’s attention. But the second they enter adolescence (when they stop relying on their mother), the whining stops completely. Rather like you’d never hear an adult use baby talk in their everyday speech because, well, it’s weird. Dogs, on the other hand, continue to make the noise throughout their entire adult lives.
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