Category Archives: wolf packs

The Role Carbs Played in the Evolution of Dogs

By Linda Cole

Scientists are still trying to unravel the mystery behind how wolves evolved into dogs. It happened so long ago, the only evidence scientists have to work with is in archaeological research into how humans evolved and fossilized teeth and bones of early canines. Researchers have a basic understanding of the approximate time when humans and wolves began to interact. New discoveries are occasionally found which adds another piece to the evolution puzzle; hopefully one day we’ll have a complete picture of how dogs became man’s best friend.

The scientific community is still debating whether wolves approached humans first or if it was the other way around. A partnership between man and domesticated wolves would have been a beneficial relationship; wolves could help bring down larger game with enough meat to share between humans and animals. With no refrigeration or knowledge of how to preserve meat, leftover kills wouldn’t have stayed fresh for long. Women were gatherers, collecting edible berries, roots, nuts, green plants and smaller animals. A tamed wolf would have given them protection as they searched for food.

The more likely scenario that led to domestication, however, was a mutual relationship of “you leave me alone and I won’t bother you” agreement between man and animal. With an advancing Ice Age, humans were forced to turn to other sources of food. Larger plant-eating animals began to die off as cooler temperatures caused their food source to become scarcer. Early humans were nomads following Mammoth and other large game because it didn’t make sense to carry a kill long distances. When their main meal, the Mammoth, became harder to find, humans were forced to turn to other sources of food. They gave up their nomad life about 10,000 years ago, settled down in small villages, and turned to agriculture for a food supply.

With the introduction of grains, the human digestive system began to evolve to better digest carbs, and scientific evidence shows the wolf’s digestive system also evolved at the same time and for the same reason. Modern dog has 10 genes that aid in digesting starches and breaking down fats. Scientists found changes in three of the genes, which is what makes it possible for dogs to split starches and absorb sugars. Today’s wolves can’t process starchy food, and that’s one thing that sets them apart from modern dogs. This discovery, however, has nothing to do with when dogs became our best friend.

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New Research Explains Why Dogs Aren’t Wolves

By Linda Cole

I admire the spirit of wolves, an animal who has found the world to be a hostile place, even though man has embraced a species that was born from them. There are similarities between dogs and wolves, but dogs are not wolves. The reason why is because of a makeup in their genome – the total genetic makeup of a cell.

After comparing D.N.A. from dogs and wolves, geneticists have determined that dogs are indeed related to the gray wolf. They studied the mitochondrial D.N.A. which remains unchanged as it’s passed down through the mother’s (maternal) line and found identical D.N.A. in both animals. Genetically, dogs and wolves are 98.8 percent identical.

Scientists are still debating when and how domestication of dogs took place and whether it was humans who first tamed wolves or if wolves found associating with humans in their best interest. Some scientists go so far as to say our early relationship with domesticated wolves was an important part in the development of the human species. The working relationship between wolf and man enabled humans to bring down bigger game which provided them with more food. More food led to larger families and a growth in human population. Wolves joined with man for a mutual relationship that benefited both sides.

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Why Do Dogs Howl?


By Linda Cole

It’s hard to miss the neighborhood dog choir howling their mournful tune as a fire truck or ambulance whizzes by. Dogs raise their heads in a howl to signal when we leave the house and when we return. One begins to howl and is soon followed by other voices in the area, but why do dogs howl? Are they really that sad when we leave and that ecstatic when we return?

Researchers understand why wolves howl. Their howls, in various tones, help the sound travel farther than a simple bark would go. We know wolves howl as a signal to the pack, “Come see what I found” or to let other members of the pack know where they are so they can meet in a single location. Wolves recognize each pack member’s howl and if an unfamiliar voice joins in, the pack leader knows an intruder may be in his territory. So a howl is also a warning to outsiders to stay away or else. It’s also a way to account for each member of the pack when they are separated by the hunt or for any other reason. Each wolf joins in signaling they are present and accounted for, and everything is OK.

It’s believed dogs howl for similar reasons, although their ancestral instincts no longer guide them and the reason for their howl is not as clear to researchers. Dogs communicate with growls, whines and howls. Their verbal language tells us how they are feeling in certain situations. If a dog howls when his owner leaves the house, it can mean he is calling his pack leader back. It can also mean he is bored out of his mind and doesn’t know what else to do. A dog who spends his day chained to a post in the middle of the backyard or locked in a house all day may need a brisk walk before you leave for work to help him relieve built up energy. You can help ease his boredom with appropriate chew toys that can keep him simulated with something to do while you are away.

People believe dogs howl when they hear sirens because it hurts their ears, but this is not true. My neighbor has four Yellow Labs who spend their day outside. They are the first in the neighborhood to hear sirens. Soon, the air is filled with all the other dogs in the neighborhood, including mine, howling in unison. Dogs howl at sirens because of their instinctive link to wolves. To a dog, that sound is coming from another dog off in the distance howling and he is just being polite by answering the other dog’s call. High pitched sounds on your TV or from a musical instrument can also produce a howl from your dog. I like to play a harmonica, but learned a long time ago not to blow into it around my dogs. I was mobbed as they tried to figure out where that sound was coming from and where the other dog was at. Come to think about it, my cats also wondered what was going on with that silver thing with the odd sounds coming out. I didn’t think my playing was that bad.

Dogs also howl when they are lonely. He instinctively knows howling can tell him where another dog is at. Because dogs are social animals and used to being in a pack, one dog may howl to locate dogs within howling distance so he doesn’t feel so alone. Not all dogs howl and some will howl more than others. Constant howling can indicate a dog who has separation anxiety from his owner. If your neighbors complain that your dog howls whenever you are gone, you may need to consider adding more exercise to his routine, toys to help give him stimulation or even adding another dog to your pack. Sometimes your pet needs a pet to keep him company when the boss is not at home. However, bringing another pet into your home is not always a good solution for a dog who misses his owner.

Dogs howl for a variety of reasons. That mournful sound we hear is not sadness. To our dogs it is simply their way of communicating over large distances. It’s a foggy memory of a way that was once used to bring the pack together. Although wolves and coyotes still use a howl in the matter nature intended, dogs howl because domestication has left them bored or lonely, and in some cases lacking in exercise. I like listening to dogs howling in unison because they seem to enjoy it. It’s sort of like a group sing along. As long as it’s not four in the morning.

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Are All Dogs Descendants of Wolves?


By Linda Cole

Through responsible breeding and centuries of domestication, dogs are certainly man’s best friend. But how much of their ancestral instincts have dogs maintained even with continued breeding that has calmed ancient instincts? I sometimes wonder as my dogs lay sleeping if there is a quiet and secret wolf at my side. Are wolves and dogs close relatives?

Scientists have discovered that the DNA of wolves and dogs are identical. They share certain traits as well as a knowledge of pack hierarchy which provides each animal with a place in the pack along with protection and defense of the pack and their territory. Although scientists are uncertain whether man domesticated the dog or they tamed themselves, we do have evidence that dogs have been living with humans for centuries. What is known is that dogs have an instinctive knowledge of their wild counterpart, the wolf.

Wolves and dogs belong to the same family, Canidae, and come from the same species, Canis lupus. All dogs from the tiniest Chihuahua to the massive English Mastiff are related to wolves. Although most dogs look nothing like their wild ancestors, they do share a few qualities that have not been completely lost through responsible breeding.

Like wolves, dogs are loyal, protective of their pack and home, and they want to be near their pack leader. Both dogs and wolves are social animals who want to please the one in charge. But that is where similarities end. Shy and recluse, a wolf’s instincts tell him to avoid humans. They would not make a good or safe pet, especially if children are involved. Wolf sightings are rare in the wild and if you are ever blessed with an encounter, you will be among a privileged group.

A pack of wild dogs, on the other hand, are more dangerous than a wolf pack as far as humans are concerned. Wolves prefer the secluded safety of the forests, but wild dogs have no fear of man and are more likely to invade our space as they search for food. Where a wolf pack is stable and more predictable, the wild dogs roaming in packs usually have no clear leader and can be erratic in temperament and reaction to situations they encounter — including encounters with people.

I’ve always admired the resilience of wolves, their intensity and intellect to function together as one for the common good of the pack. However, a wolf is not a pet and belongs in the shadow of the mountains and forests. My dogs are pets and in reality, no longer share much of their ancient past. Breeding has removed most wolf tendencies and my sweet dogs have the ability to protect those who make up their pack and give us their loyalty and trust, but have very little in common with today’s wolf.

Wolves also differ from dogs in that our pets would not be successful on a hunt. They have lost the concept of working together for the take down. Like wolves, dogs are scavengers if necessity dictates, but most dogs would have a difficult time trying to survive on their own. A dog is described by some animal behaviorists as being similar to an adolescent wolf because our dogs exhibit the same maturity as a young wolf by playing and licking our faces.

In the long run, it doesn’t really matter. Even though wolves and dogs belong to the same family, the few traits dogs have retained from their early ancestor is what makes dogs unique in their own right. As I watch my dogs sleeping at my feet with one beside me resting her head on my leg, I know they share the DNA of a wolf, but if there is a wolf hiding inside, they aren’t aware of it, and only their dreams hold secrets to an ancestor they no longer know.

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Understanding Dog Pack Hierarchy, and Why it Matters


By Linda Cole

Dogs are social animals with a well defined pack hierarchy. Like the wolf pack, each individual in the pack has its own place in that social order. Without a leader and parameters, a dog pack is confused, unstable and in constant conflict. Whether you are a pack of one dog or multiple canines, it’s important to understand the structure of the pack in order to maintain your role as leader.

As pack leader, it’s up to you to set rules and limitations for your dog. They are looking to their human alpha leader for consistent guidance and behavior you deem appropriate. A stable relationship is created when your dog understands what you expect from them.

A wolf pack hierarchy is made up of one alpha male and an alpha female. Next in line is the beta, and the omega is the lowest member of the pack. The other pack members fall in between the alpha and omega. The alpha male is the only one who leads and makes all the decisions that the entire pack follows, such as when and where to hunt, and when the rest of the pack can eat. He takes the best sleeping spots and is the only one allowed to mate with the alpha female. Any individual member who fails to obey the rules will be dealt with in a swift and appropriate manner. Those who refuse to follow pack laws are sometimes driven out in order to maintain stability.

Our dogs operate under the same hierarchy. They are born with an instinctive sense of pack mentality. Observe any litter of pups as they grow and mature. Dominate and submissive personalities begin to show as they play and interact with their litter mates. Mom keeps them in line with little nudges and nips around their neck and ears. These gentle reminders and punishments learned as pups will remain with them throughout their lives.

To establish yourself as top dog in the pack hierarchy, you have to first know which animal in your pack is the alpha. A female can be recognized by the pack as their alpha leader. Observe your dogs to see which one shows dominate behavior over the other dogs or yourself. Dominate behavior will include bumping, blocking, moving in between you and other dogs, standing alert with their tail held high (a sign of confidence), low growling whenever another dog comes near or making eye contact and holding it. Control the alpha, and you control the rest of the pack.

Never yell, hit, kick or spank any dog. It is not something they understand and will only create a more aggressive or fearful dog in the long run. You will certainly not gain any respect or trust. Respect can’t be forced; you have to earn it by controlling your pack on their terms. You become the alpha by making all the decisions for the pack. You eat first, go through a doorway first, determine which dog gets attention and when it’s given, win the tug of war game, sit and sleep in the prime spots, “move” a pack member out of your way instead of walking around or stepping over them. In other words, you establish yourself in the pack hierarchy as the alpha by controlling their basic needs and desires.

Dogs want to please us and be our protectors and companions. We create and allow unwanted behavior each time a member of our pack is allowed to misbehave with no consequences from the boss. A true alpha leader in the social order of the pack hierarchy would never allow misdeeds to go unpunished. This causes confusion and a breakdown in their social order which in turn creates an unstable pack.

The best way to show our pets just how much they mean to us is to treat them as rightful members in the pack hierarchy. Each one knows their place in the pack and you, as their alpha leader, have set the parameters and rules they will abide by. Stay calm, cool and assertive when you need to remind a rule breaker who the top dog is by administering appropriate and fair discipline. By learning how to lead, you are creating stable dogs who know their place and obey the wishes of the one who controls the pack.

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.