Modern Dogs Are Not Wolves
I found this website and facility called " The Peeing Post " ,having only just read the opening
newsletter it seems fascinating so I enclose a link below to enable people to sign up for
their newsletter and would like to know what others think of it .Its a long post as it came as
an email so I had to C & P it but I think its a good read .
"Man Meets Dog"
This is the official, translated title of Konrad Lorenz' excellent book "So kam der Mensch auf den Hund", which really means, "This is how man got together with the dog" (click on the German title if you want it in German - click here if you want it in English translation). Konrad Lorenz was the founder of Ethology as a science, back in 1948-49 in Vienna, Austria (Ethology studies behavior and the origin and meaning of behavior). This great book was the first attempt ever to draw conclusions about history and evolution based on behavioral studies. It is a great book, easy to read (Konrad Lorenz is a good story teller) and it gives a lot of very valuable insights about why on earth man and dog get along so well together, being as different species as we appear to be. (I would say, you can't really take your dog seriously without having read that book, so get your hands on it, one way or the other.)
Konrad Lorenz has been a very important mentor for me. When it comes to understanding dogs and their behavior, there is no way around his wisdom, so do not be surprised when you repeatedly see me refer to him...
In a way, "The Peeing Post" is an extension of the work Konrad Lorenz started. My main reason for publishing this newsletter is that I hope your dog will benefit from what I possibly could help you understand in regards to dealing with your lovely, domesticated wolf on some terms it can make sense out of - and not just as a "pet".... I am sorry, but I have some trouble with the North American standard way of treating dogs. Like miniature humans, or live dolls. They deserve far better than that! I do acknowledge, though, that many people do it out of sheer love - they don't know that they are not doing the best they could for the animal. How could they know? There is almost nobody to tell them! So, this makes me "almost nobody"... [FONT=Wingdings]J[/FONT]
"But modern dogs are not wolves anymore!" Sorry, if you think that, there is a lot of science to prove you quite wrong. In 1996, for instance, a study was done of the genes of different breeds of dogs. The results were compared to the genes of wild wolves. There was no math known to any scientist that could explain away the fact that the differences among the dog genes were greater from breed to breed than the difference between the wolf genes and any breed of dog! Now, the wolf was distinctively different in some ways from all the dog breeds - but the differences were of the same order of magnitude as the genetic differences between black and white people.
Another amazing fact: there are no behaviors known in modern dogs that cannot be found also in wolves. The wolf has some very specific behaviors that dogs don't always show anymore - but that is a normal domestication phenomenon that does not take more than a few generations to produce. What actually is more puzzling for scientists is that dogs have developed certain behaviors into an extreme that is unknown among modern wolves. Barking is such an example. Wolves do not bark much, and certainly not as loud as dogs! But they do bark once in a while...
Also the differences from breed to breed among dogs are astounding. For any breed, certain behaviors have been strongly focused on in the breding, and that has created an exagerated dominance of certain behaviors, often at the expense of complete elimination of other behaviors. German Sherpard puppies start grabbing each other when they are only a few weeks old. But they do not stalk each other. For Border Collies, it is exactly the opposite. Border Collies would make lousy police dogs, and modern German Shephards (despite the name and their not-so-distant origin!) would make lousy herding dogs.
Further: Dogs have developed an ability to watch the body language and moods of people, and they have done so to the degree of being far more observant to nuances than any other species on Earth, humans and monekeys included! As for the barking, this can be explained through evolution/domestication - those properties have been made subject to preferred breeding.
And more: no veterinarian or scientist can tell on the internal organs of dogs and wolves which is dog and which is wolf...
There are some very important conclusions to draw from this:
- Almost everything that relates to behavior is still there - that means: social instincts and hunting instincts are not changed! All dog behaviors are found also in wolves - but some wolf behaviors are now extinct in dogs. Konrad Lorenz suggested already back in 1948 that the analogies between wolf behavior and dog behavior were so profound (in contrast to the far fewer analogies between dogs and jackals or other members of the canine family) that the only reasonable explanation would be that dogs originated from the wolf, and not from any other canines. It took till 1996 before high-resolution DNA studies could confirm that he was right.
- Everything that relates to physiology and metabolism (all the chemistry inside the body) is also unchanged. The gastrointestinal system is intact in our modern dogs as it was in the wolf (and still is). The need for food and the nature of the nutritional needs are unchanged. The potential for diseases and their nature remain the same.
So, no matter what kind of physical "clothing" your dog has externally - inside, it is still chemically a wolf.
Yes, it is incredible that dogs can modify their exterior that much! No other domesticated animal has done that: cats are pretty much cats - the variations are very small compared to those of dogs. Horses are horses - except for the difference between an Arabian and a Morgan that only a "horse person" can tell.
But as long as we realize that it is only size and shape and coat that have chanced, we can cope with reality. And the really good news is that wolves are animals that have many human qualities - and many qualities I wish humans could learn from... they are very social and very caring for each other. Talk about family values - and we can learn it all from the wolf!
The old stories about wolves being vicious are lies. All of them. In entire history of man, there are no proven records of wolves having attacked people, except when they have been kept in captivity! The hate has been deliberately developed by farmers who did not like the wolves as their economic competitors. It was OK for the farmers to destroy the wolves' habitat and make pastures out of the forests that were home to the wolves' prey animals. But is was not OK for the wolves to assume that the farmers were willing to replace the food they destroyed for them....
I know, it is hard to reverse history. Modern farmers are not the ones that did this. But they are the ones that might pay the price when naturalists try to reverse things. I feel for them, but I admit, my sympathy is completely with the wolves...
I hope this can make you feel a bit better about accepting the status of your dog as "domesticated wolf". It's an honor, not a curse.
Having said this, I also have to warn you: don't even think about getting "the real thing" and trying to make a wolf into a family pet.... The problem is not that they still are vicious (because they are certainly not!), but there are two main problems that makes wolves and wolf hybrids very, very bad choices for pets:
- Wolves are extremely shy - that's why they still survive. Everything and anything will spook the living daylights out of them thus keeping them away from danger (most of it man-made...). Dealing with that in our modern society becomes a constant cruelty to the animal. It has taken thousands of years to breed that fundamental fear out of our modern dogs. There is no way you can do it in just a few generations yourself.
- Wolves are extremely active - they need to roam, or "travel", as the biologically correct term is. Not just a backyard, but the entire city and its 10 neighbor cities and all land in between... Modern dogs don't need that anymore - the get fed by us. But try to confine a wolf - and you create exactly that frustrated, desperate, and furious animal that becomes even more dangerous than its worst reputation...
Another thing to remember is that modern dogs are not descending from modern wolves. The wolves that were the genetic basis for our modern dogs were also the genetic basis for modern wolves. So, it is like the issue with modern primates and modern man. Man does not descent from chimpanzees, but both man and the chimpanzee descent from some common ancestor, many million years ago.
It is the same with dogs and wolves, except that the genetic relationship between dogs and wolves is much, much closer than between man and modern apes. Wolves and dogs belong to the same species, as also shown by them interbreeding easily. That's absolutely not the case for man and the other primates that are still alive on Earth today.... But it fits with the perspective of domestication of the wolf/dog having lasted no more than about 15,000 years, possibly up to 100,000 years, when we also count the time when wolves most likelly just followed man and took advantage of his garbage. But, still, compared to the common ancestors for man and modern apes, which is at least 5 million years, and most likely much more, this is a very short time indeed.
This means that we can learn a lot from studying wolves. But we cannot learn everything worth knowing about dogs from studying wolves. In fact, if we think we can, we end up with some very serious mistakes. And the sad news is that there really is no way of telling where that limit goes, except through experience! Most times, the wolf analogy will allow us to make excellent predictions for dogs, yet sometimes it will lead to wrong conclusions. In order to be true to the science we have access to, we have to accept this. This means that we can "feel good" when the analogy works, and we should quit beating ourselves when it doesn't.
If you are interested in this, then I can strongly recommend reading Erik Ziemen's book "Der Wolf" (= "The Wolf" - I know there exists an English translation, but I don't have a reference for it...). If anyone has experience with keeping wolves as dogs, Erik is the man - and he is good at explaining his observations, so they make sense.
This will be it for now. If I scared you, then please unsubscribe by following the instructions below. If you feel this kind of attitude of mine could possibly benefit your dog, though, then hang on! If you have any comments or questions, then you are, in principle, welcome to simply reply to this e-mail (as well as to any future issues). Although it is sent by a machine, this machine also passes on to me all responses you send to it, so I can answer you. However, I do get hundreds of spam messages daily on that e-mail address, so there is a serious risk that your e-mail gets deleted by mistake, and, at some point in the near future, I may have all e-mails sent to that address automatically deleted....
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|Cheers and woof,
If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of "The Peeing Post", or some comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in to dogs in general, I will be happy to know about them. If I can find an answer for you, I will!
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