Are Dogs Wolves?

Are dogs wolves?

The conversation has been going on for years about whether dogs are basically governed by the qualities of their distant ancestors, the wolf. There have been lively debates about whether the chihuahua under someone’s arm retains any of the instincts, abilities and natural tendencies of the wolf in his genetic background. Dog owners and professionals and scientists alike have been taking one side or other of this argument to prove whatever point they have in mind. But opinion and conjecture can only get you so far.

Are Wolves Dogs?
Then there’s the question of whether a wolf can be considered a wild version of a dog- or is it a distinct species? Recently there was a lovely article in the New York Times by journalist James Gorman that scientifically makes the point that a wolf is a wolf is a wolf, right down to the bone. I think this should put to rest the important fundamental differences between the two species.

Are Wolf-Dog Hybrids Safe as Pets?
This topic is one I’ve covered on the air with dog experts and authors and I’ve come down on the side of steering clear of such breeding practices. The wild inside a wolf will always be there, and eventually make life as a pet miserable for the animal- and potentially dangerous for the owners and the canine and human community in which she lives.

Would love to hear from people about their own experiences or understanding of this topic. Please write me to RadioPetLady@gmail.com or find me on Facebook or Twitter.

What Does this Say About a Dog’s Diet?
For years I’ve been opposed to the idea that canine nutrition should be driven by the (faulty) concept that dogs are wolves and should therefore be fed some sort of primal raw “throw bones on the ground” diet. Just as we are learning conclusively that wolves relate entirely differently to human beings – and are influenced by a different set of social behaviors – so should common sense tell us that as dogs have evolved into household pets, so have their physical abilities and needs changed. The ways that domestic dogs chew and digest their food has morphed from their wolf ancestors. High quality dog food has evolved to meet the needs of everything from a 5 lb little doggy [like the puppy Brussels Griffon my sister has] to a Great Dane the size of a pony. My sister’s dog gets Halo small breed kibble and canned Spots Stew – which is a similar dry and wet diet that could be followed by my friend Rhiannon for her rescued Greyhound, Maya. For maximum health and wellness, I use and recommend Halo’s non-GMO, all-meat foods[and leave the idea of foraging for berries and rabbits to the real wolves!]

Tracie HotchnerTracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK®  (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.

Dog Film Festival - Tracie HotchnerTracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.

Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.

Halo Pets

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The problem with using modern wolves in dog domestication studies

gordon buchanan wolf

Gordon Buchanan with a wild arctic wolf on Ellsmere. Photo by the BBC. 

For really long time, the mystery of human bipedalism vexed us. Our closest relatives, the chimpanzees and the bonobos, are all knuckle-walking apes, and there was an assumption that the common ancestor of all three species was a knuckle-walker. At some point, the lineage that led to our species rose up on its hind legs, perhaps to make it easier to gaze over tall grass, and we became bipedal

The current thinking, though, is that humans never derived from any knuckle-walking ape. Instead, the common ancestor of humans, chimps, and bonobos was likely a brachiator.  The modern brachiators are the gibbons and siamangs, the so-called “lesser apes.” These animals are highly arboreal, and because they lack tails, they rely upon their long limbs to move swiftly through the trees. When on the ground, brachiators walk bipedally, swinging their long arms to the side for balance.

Humans evolved bipedalism from these brachiators, while the chimps and bonobos became knuckle-walkers. In this scenario, humans never were knuckle-walkers, and it is misleading to think that humans rose up on our hind-legs from creatures that moved like chimpanzees.

What does this have to do with dogs?

Well, there have been quite a few studies that have compared dogs and wolves that have been imprinted on humans from an early age in hopes that we might figure out the domestication process from studying how tamed wolves behave when compared to domestic dogs.

These are interesting studies, but I think they oversell what they can answer.

It should be of no secret that I am very much a skeptic of the Raymond Coppinger model of dog domestication. His model contends that dogs necessarily evolved from scavenging wolves that gradually evolved not to fear people and then became village dogs. Our specialized breeds are thus derived from village dogs that were later selectively bred.

Coppinger thought that wolves were just too hard to domestic without this scavenger-to-village dog step that lies between truly wild wolves and their evolution to domestic dogs.

Modern wolves are hard to tame. They must be bottle-raised from an insanely early age.  Coppinger thought that it would be impossible for people living during the Pleistocene to provide that kind of care for young wolf pups.

Like the people who assumed that humans evolved from knuckle-walkers, Coppinger assumed that wolves that exist today are good models for what wolves were like during the Pleistocene. These wolves are reactive and nervous to the point of being paranoid. It is well-known that many wolves won’t even attempt to den near human settlements, and if they catch wind of humans, they soon leave.

These animals would not be easily tamed by anyone, much less people living with Stone Age hunter-gatherer technology.

I generally accepted his arguments, and in the early days of this site, I largely parroted them.

A few years ago, I was watching a documentary about the tigers of the Sundarbans, a vast mangrove forest that straddles the border between India and Bangladesh. These tigers are notorious for their man-eating behavior, and there have been many theories posited about why these tigers so readily hunt man. Among these is the argument that the Sundarbans tigers drink so much salt in their water intake that it destroys their kidneys, which disables them and makes them more likely to hunt man.

But the documentary contended that the real reason these tigers are more likely to hunt man is that all other tigers descend from populations where humans have hunted them heavily. In British India, tiger hunting was a popular activity among the colonial administrators, and this intensive hunting cause tiger populations to drop.  This hunting left behind only tiger that had some genetic basis to fear man more, and thus, man-eating tigers are exceeding rare now.

The Sundarbans never received this hunting pressure, so the tigers left behind had the same innate tendencies to hunt humans that the ancestral tiger population possessed.

I found this argument utterly intriguing, and I began to weigh it against what I knew about wolves. Wolves across their range have experienced even more persecution than tigers have.  In North America, we have four hundred years of humans coming up with more and more creative ways to kill them. In Eurasia, this persecution has gone on for thousands of years.

The persecution of wolves surely has had some affect in how wolves behave, including their innate tendency to accept humans and other novel stimuli in their environment.

Wolves are often so fearful that they won’t cross roads.  They just avoid people at all costs, and it just seems that this is an animal that we couldn’t possible.

This has led some people to suggest that dogs aren’t derived from wolves, but some Canis x creature that is related to dogs and wolves, but it is ancestral to the former but not the latter.

Genome comparisons have shown that such claims really don’t work. Dogs are derived from an archaic wolf population, and in this way, they are sort of genetic living fossils, holding the genomes of a Pleistocene wolves that no longer exist. But these wolves that became dogs were still part of Canis lupus, and thus, we have to maintain dogs as part of Canis lupus as well in order to retain the monophyly of the species.

Except for dogs that have modern wolf ancestry, no dog is actually derived from a wolf population that exists today.

And the wolf populations that exist today just seem so hard to tame and work with that it makes sense then to consider the need for Coppinger’s scavenging wolf-to-village dog stage between wild wolves and modern dogs.

The thing is, these studies using modern wolves are only using wolves that are derived from these heavily persecuted populations, and it is very unlikely that these animals are representative of the wolves that lived during the Pleistocene.

We know that when wild dogs have never experienced human hunting, they are intensely curious about us. Timothy Treadwell had a pack of tame red foxes that followed him around like dogs while he was off communing with the brown bears. Darwin killed the fox that was named after him by sneaking up on one and hitting it with a geological hammer.

Lewis and Clark came onto the American prairies where there were vast hordes of wolves lying about.  The wolves had no fear of people, and one wolf was actually killed when it was enticed in with meat and speared in the head with an spontoon.

After these wolves experienced the persecution of Western man, the only wolves left in the populations were those that were extremely wary and nervous.

In fact, the only wolves that exist now that have never experienced widespread persecution by man are the white wolves that live in the Canadian High Arctic.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching two documentaries about these wolves. The first was by Jim Brandenburg.  Brandenburg and L. David Mech spent a summer living with and filming wolves on Ellesmere.  These wolves showed no fear of them, and they allowed them to observe their natural behavior in the wild, including allowing them near their den sites.

Virtually the same documentary was recently made by Gordon Buchanan of the BBC. Buchanan came to Ellesmere and became accepted by a wolf pack, which eventually trusted him enough to allow him to babysit their pups while the adults hunted.

These wolves hunt arctic hare and muskox. They live hard lives, but because they have no real history with man, they are oddly curious and trusting of people.

It seems to me that these wolves are much more like those described by Lewis and Clark, and they are likely to have behaved much like the ancient Pleistocene wolves did. They had never undergone extensive persecution by man, and thus, they were probably quite curious about man.

If these ancient wolves were more like the Ellesmere wolves, then it seems domestication would have been a pretty easy process. In fact, it appears to me that it is so easy to have happened that the struggle would have been preventing it from happening in the first place.

So if these High Arctic wolves are a better model for the ancient wolves that led to dogs, why aren’t they included in the studies?

Well, these wolves are hard to access, and what is more, because they represent such a special population, it might not be wise to remove any of these wolves from the wild.

So the socialized and imprinted wolf pup studies really can’t be performed on them.

But we could still get DNA samples from them and compare their behavior-linked genes to those of dogs and wolves from persecuted populations.

All these other studies are ever going to do is tell you the difference between dogs and certain wolves from persecuted populations. They aren’t really going to tell you the full story of why dogs came to behave differently from wolves.

So for the sake of science, we need to understand that evolution through artificial selection has affected wolves as well as dogs. Dogs have been bred to be close to man. Wolves have been selected through our persecution to be extremely fearful and reactive.

So as interesting as these studies are, they have a big limitation, and the assumption that these wolves represent what ancient wolves were like is major methodological problem.

 


Natural History

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I would also suggest getting the services of an an…

I would also suggest getting the services of an animal communicator to help with behavior and issues with trust.
BAD RAP Blog

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Do You Want Your Public Radio Station to carry DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too)?

Dog Talk Radio

 

We had some wonderful news this week: DOG TALK® has joined the programming on Saturday mornings at 10 AM on a lovely new public radio station in upstate New York: WCSQ-LP 105.9 FM, known on air as “Radio Cobleskill.”

They are a licensed, non-commercial LPFM station and have just had their one year anniversary on the air. During the week, they feature an “adult hits” music format, while the evening hours and weekend mornings are reserved for specialty shows (like DOG TALK®). They cover much of Schoharie County, NY, including Cobleskill, Richmondville, Warnerville, Central Bridge, Seward and Carlisle, plus a significant stretch of Interstate 88 – with a listenership that is largely 25-54, female and male, though their weekend specialty shows reach an older demographic, as well.

It was as simple as pie – they reached out to me and asked to air DOG TALK®. “Here you go” I said, and my engineer, Kyle, will now send them the show weekly, as he does for Robinhood Radio in the Berkshires.

This is such great news because it gives me a chance to reach out and ask everyone who already listens to DOG TALK as a podcast: would you love to have the show air locally on your NPR station? If so, then call up the station and ask if they’d like to have DOG TALK® on the weekend. There’s no cost of any kind to them – it’s all about sharing the information and inspiration that I strive for every week with the show. The more people who know more about their dogs and cats, the more happy I am! And of course it’s really nice for my sponsors, too – like Halo® and Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat – because without their support there could be no show at all… nor the privilege of offering it as a gift to other public radio stations across the country.

Please get your NPR station to take advantage of this opportunity- so you have the option of hearing the show as more than a podcast after the fact!

Tracie HotchnerTracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK®  (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.

Dog Film Festival - Tracie HotchnerTracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.

Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.

Halo Pets

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Share Your Dog’s Rescue Story! #Giveaway

Both Irie and Tiki are from shelters and we couldn’t be more proud of that fact. Irie was first cared for by the Bulverde Humane Society, near San Antonio (where they took this great photo of…



[[ This is a summary only. Click the title for the full post, photos, videos, giveaways, and more! ]]


DogTipper

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Asthma Treatments for Dogs

Pet asthma is a medical condition that’s easy to diagnose in dogs and there are several different asthma treatments for dogs that can control the symptoms of this disease.

Asthma in dogs is defined as the sudden narrowing of a dog’s airways that causes breathing difficulties. Asthma can be triggered when a pet inhales something it’s allergic to. When this happens, …
Dog’sHealth.com Blog

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I am always inspired by your work, and by the inte…

I am always inspired by your work, and by the intelligence and compassion you show for all creatures and species. It is heartbreaking to contemplate the dogs left behind, and sobering to be reminded that we, as a society, share the blame for this type of "cottage industry."

This is such difficult work, and no other group does it half as well as you do. I've made a small donation. I so wish it could it more.

Oxo in Harlem
BAD RAP Blog

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Thank you for this honest assessment. I am a wolf…

Thank you for this honest assessment. I am a wolfdog rescuer/sanctuary owner and sadly, we are in no position to help with 60 in our sanctuary now.

Education is what will save the true wolfdogs AND keep bad backyard breeders from making money.

I helped in Katrina with Pitties, and I share your pain. Prayers up for the innocents that will loose their lives.

www.fullmoonfarm.org – We rescued Karma – https://www.facebook.com/karmathemythunderstood/
BAD RAP Blog

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Australian Dog Rescues Owner with Alzheimer’s from Drowning

Australian Dog Rescues Owner with Alzheimer’s from Drowning

Swimming pools can be a lot of fun on a hot day, but they can also be dangerous. The Kennedy family on the Gold Coast of Australia had reason to be grateful for their smart dog when they were reminded of those dangers!

According to 7 News, The West Australian, Marilyn Kennedy suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The Mayo Clinic notes that this progressive disease “is the most common cause of dementia.” It affects 1/10 of Americans age 65 and older, notes The Alzheimer’s Association. However, like many couples of all ages, Marilyn and Barry enjoy having a pet as part of their family. They have a beloved dog, Bob, whom they adopted from a shelter.

On a recent day, Marilyn was outside while Barry was doing laundry indoors. Suddenly Bob interrupted Barry. Barry told reporters, “Bob the dog came in barking and staring at me, and he was whimpering and I knew there was something wrong.”

Bob had been outside with Marilyn when she fell into the pool fully clothed and was unable to get herself out. Thankfully, he ran inside to find Barry and lead the concerned husband outside to Marilyn. Barry was able to help his struggling wife safely out of the pool. Despite the ordeal, Marilyn ultimately ended up being unhurt by her fall.

It was Bob’s quick thinking that saved her life. Barry told reporters that, but for Bob’s intervention, he “would have probably have been two or three more minutes in the laundry which would probably have been fatal.” Barry continued, to praise Bob, saying, “He saved my wife’s life, it’s fantastic. It really bonds us as a family.” We’re happy that Barry and Marilyn once saved Bob’s life by adopting him, and that then he was able to repay the favor by saving Marilyn’s life when she needed help. What a good dog!

Halo Pets

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Brave HSUS Rescuers Risk Lives to Save Stranded Pets

HSUS Rescue Team - Hurricane HarveyOn September 1, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was coordinating with other agencies and animal welfare organizations to rescue as many animals as possible who had been affected by Hurricane Harvey. They received a request to help a Chihuahua and a cat who were stranded in a flooded home. Christopher Schindler and Tara Loller of HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team headed out with Matthew Fortenberry, the director of Beaumont Animal Services.

According to HSUS, the intrepid trio first used a rescue boat to get near the house. Then, once railroad tracks and debris from the flooding blocked the boat’s path, they continued on foot. Once they were able to view the house, it was obvious that the home had been hit hard. The windows were all broken and a fast current of deep water flooded the home.

At that time, a group came by on a narrow boat and helped Tara. As she rode toward the house in that slim boat, Tara later relayed that she was able to hear the “desperate cries” of the dog wanting someone to help. Once in the house, Tara began moving through the waist deep water, searching for the two animals. Chuck later commented on Facebook about Tara’s courage, writing “Tara braved [a] really strong current that was flowing right through the house where we rescued these two!”

Suddenly Tara saw the dog whose cries she had heard from the boat. The white and brown Chihuahua was carefully clinging to the top of a floating sofa. After sniffing Tara, the terrified dog leaped into Tara’s arms. Clinging to Tara’s shoulder it was obvious that the dog “knew she was safe and was not letting go.” During this time, Chris and Matthew had swam through the current and forced the front door open.

After safely placing the dog in a carrier, the trio still needed to find the cat reported to be in the home. They could hear the meows of a cat but couldn’t see where she might be. Eventually they found the kitten hiding in an air pocket in a small area above a closet. Unfortunately, the air pocket that had saved the kitten’s life was too high for Tara and Chris to reach.

The rescuers were undaunted. Tara stood on Chris’s shoulders. Then she stepped onto one of his hands so that he could literally toss her into the small area above the closet. Tara was covered in insects and flat on her belly in the small space. However, uncomfortable as it was, Tara was able to reach the frightened kitten and hand her down to be placed in a carrier! Now that the two pets were in carriers on a boat, it was time to bring them to a safe, dry place where they could rest until their family could be found.

It’s not known how long the animals were hiding in the flooded home, but after their rescue, the small dog and kitten were brought to safety at the Beaumont Animal Shelter, where Tara posed with the two pets she’d saved so dramatically. When that photo was shared on Facebook, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS, praised the team, calling Tara and Chris “Life savers,” and noting that he is “so proud of [them] for this extraordinary effort.” Other commenters echoed the praise, referring to the team as “fearless heroes” and thanking them “for caring and saving” the pets.

Hurricane Harvey was horrible and the rescues are still on going. However, it’s because of compassionate animal lovers that pets like that kitten and Chihuahua are able to be saved. We bet that there’s nowhere else Tara and Chris would rather be, and nothing else they’d rather be doing than saving sweet pets and helping families separated by the fast floodwater.

Halo Pets

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