You may wonder what’s my philosophy regarding the nature of the dog, such as the reasons for my choices. Behind it all there is my thought that it is wrong to define the dog a wolf. From here a whole range of choices starts, ranging from training, nutrition up to living together with this beautiful species, the dog.
The origins of the dog
Here we go … The dog (Canis lupus familiaris Linnaeus, 1758) is taxonomically defined as a carnivore (Species:C. lupus Order:Carnivoror family:Canidae United:Animalia), It has an identity gene very similar to the wolf, but it is not a wolf.
The wolf or common wolf or gray wolf (Canis lupusLinnaeus,1758) It is present in both the old and the new world. It’s genetically close (as well as the domestic dog) to the golden jackal and the coyote. And with these it can produce fertile hybrids. The golden jackal is very similar to grey Wolf, but reduced in size, it is more slender, with a narrower and a shorter tail snout.
On the origin of the dog as a species, discussions are highly controversial. In my opinion, one very reliable is that both dog wolf had one, or more, ancestor(s) in common with the Canis lepophagus, that appeared at the end of the Miocene six million years ago. There are theories that some dogs were nothing but ancient domesticated wolves or other forms of canids, such as the golden jackal (Canis aureus) or Coyote (Canis latrans)… who share the same number of chromosomes and produce offspring fertile when crossed with one another. Now we will try to analyze the various theories, the various studies and objective data on the base of which we are going to formulate our idea.
The biological theory
In 1997 at the ‘University of California, Robert Wayne with a working group compared the domestic dog genes with those of wolves, coyotes and jackals, using molecular biology techniques. Subject of the study were 140 dogs of 67 different breeds, 162 wolves from 27 different populations, five coyotes, 8 Abyssinia’s jackals, two jackals of the mantle, and two golden jackals. The result of mitochondrial DNA samples was that coyotes and wolves differed by 6%, compared with 1% between wolves and domestic dogs. At that point it was analyzed the so-called “control region”, which is a small portion of the mitochondrial DNA and between 67 breeds of dogs were found 26 different sequences in the control region. No species had its own characteristic sequence, rather than all shared a set of genetic diversity.
The truth may be in the middle, meaning that during the course of domestication and its selection, in different parts of the globe between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic, when man began to have stable residences, different types of wild canids became the “object” of domestication and that over time they have also got to cut across each other. If we consider the various studies of mitochondrial and nuclear genome sequences and the ability to mate and produce fertile hybrids between domestic Dog and Gray Wolf, Coyote, African Wolf, Golden Jackal, Caberù and Cuon, as possibility this one isn’t so remote at all.
The behavioral theory
The Dott. Antonio Ciampelli in his treatise says, ‘Over the years “50 Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz suggested that some breeds mainly descended from wolves and others from jackals, and in particular by the golden jackal C. aureus. The theory was supported both by the exterior appearance and from the different behavior of a lupus-like dogs compared with those of type aureus. The behavioral difference was particularly noticeable in the dependency ratio of the adult dog from the man, more for aureus type dogs and in the sensitive period for attachment to his owner, who was much shorter and earlier in lupine type dogs. Dogs of the aureus type have had no difficulty in identifying the role of parent-guide for life in the owner, while lupine-type dogs put in “discussion” (as happens for wolves and domesticated dingos) once they become adults, the authority of the owner and recognize it only if the owner had revealed himself at the height of a true pack leader.
Predisposition of the genes
Do not forget that during the selection of the various some dog breeds have been “naturally” more predisposed than others to certain types of tasks or behaviors, such as wild boar hunting rather than hunting mice, the search for a leader in the pack family rather that of a playmate, the absence of monogamy in coupling rather than monogamy itself …
Who gives us the certainty that the more or less primordial instinctive predisposition was not the result, at the beginning, of genetic belonging to one or another genome? For example, the Cuon has a predisposition to hunt big preys such as the wolf, but in his pack lacks the rigid social hierarchies and there are more reproductive females.
Another example … the Caberù is designed to hunt rodents, while the golden jackal has a high ability to adapt with a diet that may include fruits, insects and small mammals.
The morphological theory
As a response, we find in domestic dogs physical and behavioral traits such as to distinguish often, even from less “insiders”, our furry into races “lupine” and “areous”. According to Konrad Lorenz, in his “Man Meets Dog”, here lies the difference between dogs looking for the figure of the pack leader or vice versa looking for parent. For Lorenz those dogs who have a lineage from the jackal not so strongly feel that sense of belonging to the pack, they have more of a morbid infant attachment, resulting childishly devotees, while the lupine origins dogs have a stronger loyalty to those who guide them, they need to be able to count on the solidarity of the pack.
Is it interesting to note how in lupine’s breeds, the puppy grows and evolves his emotional attachment to a particular person, going from bonding with the parent to the bond of loyalty to its leader (usually in the “human family pack”, the figure it’s always the same). Normally the passage in which one of these puppies become attached forever to a particular family’ member coincides with the fifth month of life.
We may summarized as follows:
- Breeds with blood lines resulting from the golden jackal (aureus):
Behavior bound to the figure of the mother; childhood events; childhood events that remain partially into adulthood.
- Breeds with blood lines resulting from the wolf (lupus):
absolute loyalty to the leader once he or she has been so with a clear demonstration of ability; cohesion among members of the “family pack”; decision-making independence once reached full maturity.
The theory of domestication
A strong domestication theory holds that man chose between the forerunner of the domestic dog (was wolf or common ancestor… who knows?!) those specimens less likely to hunting, less fearful and more docile, so selecting the puppies according to these characteristics. A study to confirm that was done on foxes in Russia. Studio started by Dmitry K. Belyaev in 1959 and ended 40 years later, at Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, Siberia, with a total of 45000 studied foxes. This study showed how the domestication selection could lead to genetic variation on both behavioral traits and physical ones in foxes. Foxes which starts to behave as common domestic dogs (these behavior were absent in wild foxes and in those of the “control group”). We’re talking about morphological and behavioral traits like softly ears, barking, wagging tails (even once adults), and so on.
The publication of the results was shocking … after only six generations of selection scientists had to add one more “line” to the classification including those foxes who behaved like dogs, seeking the attention of the researchers, licking the hands that fed. After twenty generations the members of this added class became 35% and then they reached to 80%. The measurement of hormonal activity showed a steady decline in the activity of the adrenal glands in foxes and an increase in serotonin levels, these characteristics could not be found in the non-selected group of foxes which remained wild.
The thing that amazed even more importantly was to notice the physical change of some features not found in wild foxes as: spots in the mantle, hanging ears, short or curled tails. They decreased also the size of the skull in height and width; plus, the size of the muzzle which became shorter and squat. If you think the differences between wolf and dog, this is an important signal …
The neotenic theory
Experiment done on the Siberian foxes brings us back to neotenic theory, which mean that man went on the selection of the domestic dog preferring docile specimens that maintained as much as possible the appearance of puppies. The term “neoteny” means, in fact, maintaining youthful characteristics into adulthood. To different degrees of neoteny will correspond different morphologies and behavioral attitudes. This theory finds its explanation in neotenic scale drawn up by the American biologist Raymond Coppinger, published in 1983. Basically the faces and even the behavior / susceptibility of modern dog breeds depends on the “blocked growth stage” in which the breed arrived😊 rephrase… it depends on what childhood traits are left in the adult dog of that breed.
Coppinger (who revisited some of his theories later on) based his classification on the appearance and character of the dogs as they were different between the adult dog from puppy, going from the infant stage, the stage of the game, the Master of Ceremonies, hooker and finally adult. Covering all the shapes of modern dogs
The following is a the book which can definitely intrigue:
Of the world’s dogs, less than two hundred million are pets, living with humans who provide food, shelter, squeaky toys, and fashionable sweaters. But roaming the planet are four times as many dogs who are their own masters—neighborhood dogs, dump dogs, mountain dogs. They are dogs, not companions, and these dogs, like pigeons or squirrels, are highly adapted scavengers who have evolved to fit particular niches in the vicinity of humans. In What Is a Dog? experts on dog behavior Raymond and Lorna Coppinger present an eye-opening analysis of the evolution and adaptations of these unleashed dogs and what they can reveal about the species as a whole.
Exploring the natural history of these animals, the Coppingers explain how the village dogs of Vietnam, India, Africa, and Mexico are strikingly similar. These feral dogs, argue the Coppingers, are in fact the truly archetypal dogs, nearly uniform in size and shape and incredibly self-sufficient. Drawing on nearly five decades of research, they show how dogs actually domesticated themselves in order to become such efficient scavengers of human refuse. The Coppingers also examine the behavioral characteristics that enable dogs to live successfully and to reproduce, unconstrained by humans, in environments that we ordinarily do not think of as dog friendly.
Providing a fascinating exploration of what it actually means—genetically and behaviorally—to be a dog, What Is a Dog? will undoubtedly change the way any beagle or bulldog owner will reflect on their four-legged friend.
Staging of neoteny dog
Lorna and Raymond Coppinger have classified the various types of dog on the basis of five “neotenic stages”, which start from the first stage in which the dog presents all the characteristics of the wolf cub, up to the fourth stage in which the dog reaches the grade of “mental and physical maturity” of the teen wolf. The fifth and last stage is the true adult wolf itself, which only a few specimens of dog can achieve.
Stage 1, or the infant stage
It corresponds to the wolf puppy under 2 months.
The dogs at the first stage neotenous have overwhelmingly childhood physical characteristics typical of wolf pups in the first and second month of life. The short snout, small ears and pendants, the rounded skull, the body squat and awkward gait. Psychologically the puppy is tied exclusively to the mother and brothers, and get away from them causes the fear and stress. The outside world interests him very little, and is afraid of anything that does not know: therefore tends to react aggressively to any extraneous stimulus.
Breeds-example: all molosser. These dogs are fighters uninhibited rituals (which indeed appear only in the adult wolf), good guardians because extremely territorial (in them, “den” and “territory” are actually synonyms), not very suitable for activities requiring a high temperament (like speed of reaction to stimuli) and initiative. There are hierarchical, because the hierarchical order begins just three months: for them the concept of “owner-pack leader” does not exist. However, there is the concept of “mom-master”, this is because they love, respect and which lend obedience.
2nd stage, or stage of the game
It corresponds to the 4-month wolf cub
The dogs at the second stage neotenous approach the puppy wolf from the third to fourth month of life. They show curiosity and liveliness to external stimuli, spontaneous play with siblings and parents, they begin to leave the den and interact (always in a fun way) with other members of the pack, but still wary of what they do not know. They feel great pleasure in taking everything in their mouths.
The physical appearance presents: the longest ears, but in still pending or half upright position, elongated snout and more agile and proportioned body.
Breeds-example: most Bracco and especially retrievers. They are ill-suited to the tasks of guarding and defense, because it still deficient in terms of courage: they also abandoned the link with the den but have not yet developed sufficient territoriality food / sexual (typical adult). As a playful and affectionate nature, they have a real carryover “passion”. They begin to grasp the concept of hierarchy, but are still tied to his mother, the ideal master is the one that knows how to keep an intermediate behavior between “Mom” and leader of the pack.
3rd stage, or stage of Ceremonies
This corresponds to 4-6 months wolf cub.
The ears are long erect or almost erect, the muzzle was further stretched, the gait is agile and dissolved. At this stage the dog is no longer “oral phase” and is therefore less keen to carry: manifests instead the tendency to overtake any object (or animal) in motion, “intercepting” and by cutting off the road. This behavior is precisely called “parade” and represents a sort of preparation for the predatory behavior, which will manifest itself after a short time and that will result in pursuit of prey and in an attempt to grasp the heels. In nature, from 3 to 6 months, comes the stage of hierarchical ordering / sorting of the pack. These dogs are very hierarchical and collaborative.
Breeds-example: most lupoid, especially herding. These dogs are suitable for guarding tasks, because they already territorial; defense, because they are ready to do anything for the boss-pack leader; track, because they already know the hunting techniques that push them to use the sense of smell; conduction of the flock, because they tend to “group” animals that are entrusted to them. The breeds that belong to the third stage are more flexible and eclectic, because they show a psychic maturity “almost” adult but remain very dependent on superiors.
4th stage, or stage hooker
It corresponds to the teen wolf
The first neotenic theory would stop at this stage, grouping around the period from adolescence to adulthood. Today we tend to add a fifth stage that welcomes the fully adult wolf.
In the hooker stage the dog has a physique similar to that of the adult wolf, erect ears, a long muzzle, well developed muscles, supple body. The hookers are independent, enterprising and predators (they are already in the stadium where they have to work with adults in the hunt). They tend to chase the prey and to lock it targeting the hindquarters. They are strongly hierarchical but only respect the pack leader, they do not know what to do with a “mom.” With them is most effective “earnest” dominance, that sloppy and full of cuddles.
Breeds-example belong to this stage some greyhounds, all the Nordic hunting dogs and two sleds, the Samoyed and Alaskan Malamute.
5th stage or adult stage
It corresponds to the adult wolf.
For physical and character, the dog reaches this stage resembles an adult wolf. Not hardly barks (as already mentioned, the bark is a childhood event), but it can howl for social reasons. Very independent and predator, it can have a very strong bond only with higher-ranking members who know how to win his esteem (also generous with affection, but this is not enough to be obeyed).
Breeds-example: greyhounds more primitive (eg. l ‘azawakhs) And the remaining two Nordic breeds sled, siberian husky is Greenlander. Between the two, the Greenland is even more “adult” Husky and its “management” is reserved for true connoisseurs of canine psyche.
Evolution and adaptation of the dog
However, leaving aside the controversial origins and breeds selections, what we do know is that over a hundred thousand years ago the dog and the wolf genetically began a different path, and that more than ten thousand years ago (20,000 to 40,000) the dog and the man began to live together. The evolution and adaptation to life with the man made the two species able to coexist in perfect harmony. A sort of mutual symbiosis where both dog and humans obtains mutual benefit from living together, but it is not pure symbiosis because both dog and man can live alone without the need to necessarily share the “roof “.
Dogs read us in the face!
The agreement and the complicity that exists between dog and man has no comparison when you consider any other type of relationship between man and animal. Sign that they evolved side by side. Some experiments have shown this understanding by putting man and dog (untrained), man and chimps and man and cats, facing each other to carry out two simple exercises …
The dog (monkey, cat) is located in front of two bowls and must choose one that contains the prize.
1. Man will indicate with his hand on the bowl with the award.
2. Man will indicate with his eyes on the bowl with the award.
Result? Among all species under comparison, only the dog responded positively to man’s instructions, although they pointed to the bowl with the simple look. I’m not here to dwell with you on the details or how even the puppies, despite the unruly nature of puppies, they were much more in tune with the man of primate cousins or felines.
The fact is that evolution has allowed a tune that during the experiment the dog researched actively with his eyes the man’s eyes, (He proactively researched instructions or signs in mimicry). Yes, the dogs read us in the face!!! Others two spicies, not only did not learn immediately the meaning of man’s instructions, but always kept a kind of decision-making independence neglecting human signs.
Co-existence and co-evolution Man – Dog
Very recently discussed on Socials dedicated to dogs is the kind of figure that the human owner should have towards his dog. There are those who assert that we must be leaders of the pack, others say we should be loving parents who are capable of leading. It is fashionable lately deny hierarchical figure used for a long time, and promoting “soft” methods of training, more respectful of the being from the human point of view.
Here I do not stretch out to the extremes of the two behaviors and limit myself to be respectful of the dog’s nature for what it is … a wonderful animal, which broke from its wild nature and has become accustomed to living with humans. That keeps instincts related to its nature (we also keep them), but that has evolved in behavior due to human-dog interaction.
A wild “softened”?
In other words my point of view is that the dog evolved hand in hand with the human figure, so he kept an instinct and its essence very close to Mother Nature, but it is also left itself to be influenced and “softened” by the continued co-existence and co-evolution with man.
That’s why the dog, no matter which breed it belongs, not reaching the final neotenic growth stage in the role of leader, he doesn’t feels to belong. Being in this position is for him a source of stress and imbalance; of contrast, however, he feels the need to have a figure of reference…to trust and show respect, but if it does not find one at its height, then is forced to take that place that cannot remain vacant. This is told to him by his instinct and the genes inherent in its DNA.
It may possess a character and inner energy such that, if it was a wolf, he held the position of alpha male (a term that is falling into disuse). This unfortunately is the case we can often see in modern human families were a weak and timid dog could establish itself in the role of family leader because at home there isn’t a figure that makes him feel safe, a family where there are not (at least for him) rules, limits and clear and unambiguous boundaries.
These are the cases where we find most of the problems so in the end the desperate owners seek professional help to “fix” his dog, ignoring that they should be the first to correct their way of doing things towards the poor dog who is just seeking for a good leader… Consider that if your dog has a strong leader character, it will be wrong to let him became the leader of the family pack, but it will give less discomfort signals of a dog with weak character that should be found in spite of himself in that role.
The objective assessments
At this point I think you have to do some deserve and objective assessments. The story of the birth of the dog is still under discussion and theories because the fossil, genetic investigations and all exposed theories do not find a common and clear solution. The history and data are fragmented, they show that the first ancestors of dogs certainly existed, with a different genetic makeup from wolves and there is no direct jump between wolves and domestic dogs. This common ancestor or ancestors has / have been able to develop for many generations over thousands of years to become the dog that we know today. Even the primitive!
You may wonder what the primitive dogs are?! Well, there are several people who claim to possess the oldest breed in the world … it is obviously a wrong classification under several levels of observation.
Usually these people point out the fact that the DNA of their dogs is much more like that of a wolf … Well we specify that all dogs possess 99% of the same genetic composition of a wolf. That 1% difference, however, is very important. This difference is why I call the article “The dog is not a wolf.”
Inside this small percentage is the entire collection of genes that influence the behaviors that make the dog our best friend a maintain the wolf as our (biologically speaking) “competitor” in the food chain. To answer those who argue the genetic theory I would say that it is not entirely Explanatory their definition and thatthey should add: Humans and dogs share 84% of DNA. Humans and chimpanzees share 99% of DNA. The genome of the domestic dog, as well as the human genome, has approximately 2.5 billion DNA base pairs. The pairs of DNA of a dog different by a wolf are 25 million! This is not insignificant. The dogs are wolves as we are chimpanzees.
Dogs behave differently from wolves especially in the pack. Faced with a problem, the wolves are more resolute in solving it, and more likely to work with another member of the pack. While dogs if they have a problem…most likely they will try to receive instruction for the solution by looking at the man rather than work on their own or often they surrender. The wolves even at the stage of the hunt are much more cooperative with each other.
Sure, everyone has known the great disposition of wolfs in growls and bites during the meal, but although there is more aggression by wolves, each of them, also the lowest rank, manages to get a piece of food. The dogs are less aggressive against each other but are not so cooperative.
This is what emerged in a study conducted by the ‘University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna by Friederike Range, behavioral biologist, and Zsófia Virányi observing a population of wolves and dogs bred together at the Wolf Science Center.
The figure of the leader of the pack is tightly binding the wolf pack family and is rather less radicalized in the pack of dogs. However, there is a hierarchy, as demonstrated by the aforementioned R. Coppinger and others, but it is less strong and is more complex and based on “social” context. Basically this hierarchy is constantly changing in a pack of dogs.
And … the feed?
And we come to feeding time… The differences between dogs and wolves go far beyond the different type of behavior. Regarding the food, wolves eat mostly meat, with some variations depending on the geographical region in which they live. The dogs are more omnivorous. A shocking data, that will make you understand how the absolutism showed by many “experts” is inappropriate, is that the gastrointestinal system of dogs and their nutritional needs are much more similar to the human ones than to those of wolves. What I say is based on a 2013 study that has received several confirmations in science.
The analysis is based on the genetic differences between wolves and domestic dogs: Dogs have three genes that wolves do not have and which play an important role in the digestion of starch (AMY2B, MGAM and SGLT1). This does not mean that dogs can live with pasta, fruits and vegetables, but only that the belief that carbohydrates are poison to them is not entirely correct. Of course, the base of the bowl as mentioned in other articles should be protein predominantly, but the right amount of rice, vegetables and fruits, can only do well. In detail below will carry the exposed of the study.
Axelsson, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, compared the DNA of dogs and wolves to understand which genes were important for domestication. He sequenced the DNA of 12 wolves from around the world and representatives from 60 dogs of14 breeds.
First, he tried single letters in the DNA, called bases, which ranged from one genome to another, identifying about four million of these so-called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). He ignored the regions with the highest number of SNPs and focused instead on places where there were few or no SNP. That lack of variation indicates that the DNA was so important for survival during the domestication that any change has been lost, so most of the dogs have the same SNP.
Those regions were those where the researchers were most interested. The dogs had 4 to 30 copies of the gene for amylase, a protein that begins the starch cleavage in the gut. The wolves have only two copies, one on each chromosome. As a result, the gene was 28 times more active in dogs. More copies mean more protein, and studies in laboratory indicate that dogs should be five times better than the wolves in the digestion of starch, the main nutrient in agricultural grains such as wheat and rice.
Dogs and wolves have the same number of copies of another gene, MGAM, which encodes maltase, another important enzyme in starch digestion. But there are four key differences between the sequence in dogs and wolves. A difference causes dogs to produce longer versions of maltase. That longest protein is also found in herbivores such as cows and rabbits and omnivores, such as lemurs and mice rats, but not in other mammals, suggesting that the length is important for plant eaters. These differences make dog most efficient than wolf to digest “human food”.
In summary, it is clear that dogs are behaviorally and morphologically different from the wolves; their brains have developed differently, and their nutritional needs are different.
So, the dog is not a wolf. There are many sides in common and equal primordial origins, but domestication and coexistence with man led today’s domesticated dogs to have substantially transformed their wild nature.
A finding of this is also found in the feral dogs. Those dogs that live without direct interaction with humans, but are living on the outskirts of towns and cities. They live by stealing from food containers, left unattended or alms. If they hunt, they don’t do hunt like wolves in a group, but as individuals and not even that well. In this group are always more than two specimens that mate Mating so much to attend continuous litters and so, number of such packs may be so high as to amount to more than the actual possibility of local resources (numbered so the rate of disease and high malnutrition).
Just this characteristic reminds us how this behavior deviates so much from species Wolf, which for its part maintains an adequate number of litters only if the supply of food is enough. Groups in which the figure alpha is present and necessary, while the domestic dog, as a kid in hormonal explosion, the first sexual stimulation, reacts without caring about the consequences.
A different must be said for those breeds half dog and half wolf as the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog Dog or Wolf Saarlos both relatively recent. These breeds were created by actual intersections between dog and wolf … that have a genetic makeup that makes them, inevitably, be part of a category of its own. We’ll talk about in another article 😉
Evolution is change
The dog, as it has evolved in the character and physiology, together with man, even in his feeding habits has followed an adaptation course. So, those who wants the feed the dog, like the spoiled children, of packaged snacks is totally wrong, as well as who wants to feed his own dog as a tiger.
This is the same attitude with which we discuss about human diets. Some claim that the man, coming from monkeys, should eat only fruits and seeds. Who does nothing else than eat ready and processed meals.
And then there are those (like me) who believe in the evolution of species and the morphological and behavioral change. Those who believe that, given a sufficient amount of time for evolution to take its course, the bodies (of man and dog) are transformed, adapting. So, if for thousands of years dogs have been fed in a certain way, it is more than obvious that it is the healthiest, the one to which the body has adapted better and from which they can derive maximum benefit. Do not poison your dogs There are alternatives as natural food (BARF, homemade diet,…), not enriched the pockets of the dog feeding industry operating as pharmaceutical companies …
Returning to our dogs … if the dog by 15,000 years has always fed with natural leftover food from our kitchen, what has changed now that supports the trend of recent times to feed him often unbalanced and unnatural industrial food?!
The truth is that the best food is what thousands of years we have supplied to our domestic dog with today’s knowledge that certain foods are preferable to others and some totally excluded. For details I refer you to articles that I prepared under the menu “Food Supply.” First among them is dedicated to the shopping at the market. What to buy and what to avoid”.
Think twice before giving in to modern marketing ploys 😉
Ciao! Sono Alessio Palleschi
La mia passione per la cinofilia, che mi segue da 40 anni, mi ha portato negli ultimi tempi a voler aiutare sempre più persone a creare un rapporto migliore con i propri cani, a gestire e far crescere il proprio cane nel migliore dei modi in completa autonomia. Esplora gli articoli, le guide e gli approfondimenti che ho pubblicato su questo Blogdog!