Dogs are better than wolves.

I read two interesting articles about wolves and dogs this week, offering two new theories about why, despite being so genetically close they can interbreed, wolves are nearly impossible to domesticate, and dogs seem to be made for human companionship.

A team of evolutionary biologists has learned that although wolves begin exploring their world at two weeks, they are still deaf and blind.  (This was previously unknown.)  Wolf cubs are more fearful than puppies when exploring new things as a result.  This leads scientists to believe that wolves must be socialized to humans at a younger age than dogs in order to overcome their fear of people.

Kužka v službi komunaleThe second study learned that dogs can digest carbs and wolves cannot.  This leads to the theory that dogs were drawn to humans because we have tasty, digestible trash.  Or that some wolves were drawn to humans and their digestive tract adapted to the changed diet, turning them into dogs.

I’ve never had a puppy.  Every dog I’ve owned in my life has come to me as an adult, either from a shelter or as a stray.  So I cannot speak about puppy socialization.

I can confirm that my dogs like carbs.  They are huge fans of fruit, chips, and, well, pretty much everything except lettuce and celery.  I didn’t realize that wolves were pickier eaters than dogs (through no fault of their own).

Harry Colebourne and WinnieI’ve known dogs who were picky eaters, and that didn’t seem to prevent them from forming bonds with their owners.  In fact, it seems like many of us are willing to go to great lengths to cater to our dogs’ quirks.  Not to mention our fondness for cats, who don’t even pretend to like us most of the time.

It also makes me wonder about bears, who are well known lovers of trash.  And raccoons.  And a host of other animals.  Being an omnivore doesn’t lead to domestication in most cases, so there must be more to it than that.

That’s how it is with science.  Everything you learn leads to more questions.

What did you learn this week?

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6 thoughts on “Dogs are better than wolves.

    • I’m sorry I missed this earlier, Molley. It ended up in the spam folder, which I just checked. There are some fascinating programs about dogs out there. They always reaffirm how amazing our companions are.

  1. This is really interesting. I sometimes see my dogs run by and realize that they are animals (not extended family) and in some way it is so bizarre that animals live in the house with us. It’s strange to think about that. Why are some animals so easily domesticated and others impossible to domesticate. I agree with you, there has to be more to it than a love of carbs…and trash.

    • Yes, in those moments I understand why people from cultures where animals are not treated as pets find us so weird. I find myself incomprehensible when my dogs are howling in unison and I cannot stop giggling about it. It’s terribly loud and obnoxious, and yet it delights me.

  2. We sometimes howl with our dogs. My daughter says we are singing…if an ambulance goes by they sing along with the sirens. One of our dogs throws her head in the air when she howls and her front paws come off the ground. It’s pretty hilarious.

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