In the Beginning: Adam Learns About Wolves and Dogs – S01E01 Listen
January 1st, 2017
In the debut episode of DOGS IN OUR WORLD, Adam Winston travels to Wolf Haven International in Tenino, WA to learn more about wolves and dogs. This three-part episode examines the history of wolves in North America, popular theories regarding the domestication of dogs, and how we should view dogs when looking to wolves. Are we part of the pack, or something more? Listen to this episode and tell us what you think by visiting dogsinourworld.com.
*Music donated by Dave Elkins.
With the discovery of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, and the technology to sequence the genomes of both humans and animals, it is no surprise to find that we have a lot in common with our animal friends. How much humans have in common with animals may come as a bit of a shock. While it is understandable that we share DNA with our cousins the apes, we also share DNA with other, less simian animals.
Wolf Park is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to behavioral research, education and conservation, with the objective of improving the public’s understanding of wolves and the value they provide to our environment.
Wolf Haven International is a nationally recognized wolf sanctuary that has rescued and provided a lifetime home for 200 displaced, captive-born animals since 1982. Guided 50-minute walking visits offer guests a rare, close-up view of wolves. Wolf Haven provides a variety of educational programs, participates in multi-agency Species Survival Plan programs for critically endangered wolves and advocates for wolves in the wild.
Sometime between fifteen and thirty thousand years ago, probably in the Middle East, the long, protracted process of domestication began to alter the genetic code of the wolf, eventually leaving us with the animals we know and love as domestic dogs. While there are several different theories as to exactly how dog domestication began, what is clear is that there were some wolves who were less fearful of humans than others. Over time, those wolves were incorporated into early human settlements. Perhaps humans and early dogs learned to hunt cooperatively - both species hunt primarily by outrunning their prey - or perhaps early dogs instead learned that they could avoid hunting by scavenging on the leftovers of human hunting parties. Whatever the initial reason for the incorporation of wolves into human society, there their descendants still remain.
Perhaps the most commonly used adjective from dog owners when describing canine behavior is the word ‘dominant.’ Traditional understandings teach that the most primary motivator for a dog is to establish a social hierarchy where there is a clearly defined pack leader. This gives rise to the over-popularized idea that canine behavioral issues are a result of our dogs not having a strong leader and so they are acting out to fulfill that role. In light of the fact that there have been thousands of articles written on this topic both inside and outside of the scientific literature, I hope to present a different understanding of social dominance with a more modern evolutionary perspective to show how the desire to establish dominance with our dogs can damage our relationship more than solve behavioral issues.
It turns out that dogs and seals are pretty closely related, and we know that dogs are about 85% similar to humans at the DNA level. So, a good guess is that humans and seals are likely in the same ballpark. This is more than the 80% we share with mice, but way less than the 98% we share with chimps