top of page

Where does my dog come from? From wolves to domestic dogs

How domestication and evolution relate to your pet dog and the work the Caring Canine Coach does with them. In this blog we will be looking at:

Are wolves and dogs related?

Scientists researching this subject have been able to compare the genetic information of ancient and modern-day wolves to the pet dogs of today.

These tests have shown that modern day wolves and our pet dogs have a common ancestor, which is a now extinct population of wolves. Because of their shared ancestor, modern day wolves and our dogs are genetically similar, but they are not the same.

You may be wondering how long ago it was when the ancient wolves started to evolve into dogs and the answer is rather interesting! Scientists are using different methods to try and answer this question.

Some scientists are looking at the age of fossils that have been found. The oldest confirmed dog fossil found to date was found in Germany and has been dated as around 14,000 years old. Another fossil found in Belgium (which is yet to be confirmed) is around 32,000 years old! But we can’t rely on these fossil ages alone, there could be many more fossils waiting to be found out there which are much older!

So, what about genetic evidence?

Well, scientists have been using genetic testing to try and identify when wolves evolved into dogs, but many dates have been suggested, these range from 135,000 years ago to only 11,000 years ago.

Hopefully more evidence will emerge in the future but for now we only have a large range of date estimates!

How did wolves become domesticated dogs?

This is another question that remains unanswered but there are two main theories used to explain this. The first theory is that our human ancestors found a litter of wolf puppies and took them in to raise them. Perhaps our ancestors found them cute like we do today or maybe there was another reason for them taking the litter of pups.

The second theory is that wolves started to approach human settlements in their search for food waste and this is how they became used to interacting humans.

To date neither of these theories have been proven correct.

Even though we don’t know when or how dogs were domesticated, we can assume that our ancestors didn’t have any knowledge of genetics! That doesn't mean that our ancestors didn't have an effect on the behaviours and traits of the wolves that later became dogs though. They may have liked certain behaviours or traits in some of the wolves, for example those that were friendly or bold. They may have kept wolves with these traits from litters, rather than those that were aggressive or shy. An aggressive wolf wouldn't interact well with humans and a friendly wolf would be much more useful to our ancestors.

It is likely that the wolves that were kept from litters because of the desirable traits then mated and passed these traits to their offspring, therefore reducing the likelihood of the undesired traits being passed on.

Over time the process continued, dogs emerged and were domesticated. This helps us understand how we ended up with our dogs that are so different to the extinct wolf population they evolved from. Our ancestors likely played a large part in changing the behaviour of wolves and developing them into dogs, with differing traits.

How does all this relate to my pet dog?

When dogs became domesticated, humans started to use their skills to help them in their everyday lives. As humans began to lead more complex lives, dogs started to do different jobs such as herding livestock, guarding homes and being involved in hunting. Humans bred dogs with the desired traits and behaviours that were valuable and needed in the jobs they wanted their dogs to do.

A majority of dog breeds have been developed over history to perform certain tasks for humans. Although your dog may not be doing the job they were originally bred for, some of the traits and behaviours that they needed to perform those jobs are still present. For example, some Border Collies like to herd things and some Terriers like to dig! Sometimes, when those needs aren't met, behaviour problems can occur; for example, a Border Collie may begin car chasing and a Terrier may dig large holes in your lawn!

One way we can help our dogs is to give them outlets to perform their jobs in an acceptable way. Here is Astrid, she loves to dig! Instead of digging holes in the lawn she now has her own digging pit which keeps her out of bother and our lawn remains in one piece!

How does The Caring Canine Coach use this when working with your dog?

When working with you and your dog, the Caring Canine Coach will consider your dog's breed, characteristics and what motivates them; all dogs are unique with their own little (or big) personalities. By seeing your dog as an individual, the Caring Canine Coach is able to assess a range of training techniques and select the best one/s to suit both you and your dog.

As part of changing behaviour, we will look at your dog's specific breed related instincts and make sure they have an appropriate outlet to perform these behaviours. You won't be asked to turn your pet into a working dog with a job, but we will look at games, tasks and activities that use part of your dog’s natural drives and instincts, to engage them and fulfil their natural desire to perform certain behaviours.

The Caring Canine Coach will also take a detailed history of your dog, to fully understand their background and how this may be influencing their behaviour.

Surprisingly the dogs on our sofas only make up 20% of the population of dogs! Dogs that are free roaming make up the other 86%! We have many rescue dogs that were once street or free roaming dogs in the UK. Some of these dogs can be shy, defensive and fearful others may be friendly, confident and bold. As Darwin suggests, traits that aid a dog's survival and help them reproduce are much more likely to be passed on, traits can't be passed on if the dog if a dog doesn't survive or reproduce! So, some free roaming dogs may be shy and fearful, which helps them survive by being wary of approaching people or situations that could harm them; this in turn aids their survival and the passing on of these traits to their offspring.

The Caring Canine Coach understands the impact genetics has on each individual dog and how it can affect their behaviour. There are many things that need to be considered when assessing your dog's behaviour, you will never be blamed and shamed for being the sole cause of your dog's behaviour problems.

Are you unsure about the best training methods to use with your dog?

Are you struggling to resolve a behaviour problem?

Do you have a rescue dog that you need help with?

Don't be afraid to ask for help, you will find me approachable, friendly and non-judgemental. Simply visit this page on this website, to book a FREE 15 minute discovery call. You can then decide if you want to go ahead with the training.

I do both online and face to face support sessions, for areas within ten miles of Rishworth there is no cost for travel (areas include but are not limited to: Rishworth, Saddleworth, Rochdale, Oldham, Halifax, Sowerby Bridge, Ripponden, Brighouse, Littleborough & Todmorden). For those outside of the area, I can support with online meetings or for fuel costs I will travel to see both you and your dog.


bottom of page