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The Connection Between Wolves and Dogs

At times we’ve probably all seen dogs exhibit some downright peculiar behaviors. Things like: circling before lying down (how many circles can one dog make?); hooooowwwwling; digging holes in the garden (NOT cool!); or hoarding toys (have you seen the heap of toys under the couch?).  While these actions are really cute (OK, not always cute) in a domestic setting, for your pup’s relatives in the wild they served a purpose. What you’re seeing is his instinct kicking in and being applied with the tools at hand in your home. Because studies have connected the origins of our canine companions to wolves, his behaviors are a little easier to understand (see, he’s not so weird after all). And now that the connection between wolves and domestic dogs is quite well-established, the latest debate examines the geographic origins of dogs: East Asia, the Middle East or Europe are all contenders for the point of origin (but that’s another story).

So, for example, from the silliest, yappiest Yorkshire Terrier to the most majestic, woolly Siberian Husky, all dogs (canine lupus familiaris) share DNA and anatomy with wolves (canis lupus), which might help to explain some of the quirky behaviors your little wolfie exhibits. Take for example his  spinning in circles before getting some shut-eye. He does this because wolves generally spin in circles to clear brush and bring up some cool soil before turning in for a snooze. And the howls are your pup’s way of “talking” with other dog members to locate them, warn of danger (someone’s at the door!) or summon the pack (you, other dogs or family members). As for the digging (oh the digging!)... well, think of it as your dog’s way of putting away the groceries (and for safekeeping from other scavengers). Or what about that arsenal of toys, bones and balls under the couch, bed or in his crate? He’s simply stockpiling his possessions. And lastly, that adorable side-to-side headshake he does when playing with a squeaky toy is straight out of the wolf handbook: the rapid shakes of the prey (toy) are meant to snap a neck or break a back.

As with the humans in our life, it sometimes helps to know a little about where they’re from to get a better understanding of how to interact and deal with them in a meaningful way. Maybe, just maybe, the same applies to the canines in our lives.

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