I have mentioned John Bradshaw’s book Dog Sense in a previous post, and will discuss parts of it further in future posts. There is so much good information in there, it’s hard to choose just one thing to discuss. Over all, it is one of the best reads available today at debunking the myth of following the “wolf pack” theory of dog training. Too many trainers are still using the whole “act like the alpha wolf” and prevent your dog from taking over the universe (ok, the household) when everything we know about dogs and wolves today really do not support this theory.
According to Bradshaw, “modern wolves are only very distantly related to the domestic dog, and they have been under intensive selection pressure, especially over the past few hundred years from those who wished to exterminate them.” Given the environment that today’s wolves live in, the wolves who survive are those who are least social toward humans. The biggest threat to their continued survival is humans, so it’s not a big leap to understand why today’s wolves would be far less likely to want to hang out anywhere near humans. The wolves who first took steps toward domestication would have had to be just the opposite. They had to be curious and overcome their potential fears to venture close to humans. Today’s wolves who are too curious are more likely to end up dead.
Dogs are descended from wolves, there is no question about that. But they are descended from a population of wolves that no longer exists! In my post dated 8/25/11 on The Domestication of Dogs, I cited a National Geographic article, this book, and another book that all point to the first domesticated dogs being present around 30,000+ years ago. Dogs and wolves separated a long, long time ago.
While they still share some similarities, it really makes no sense to look at modern wolves as the model for how to live with and train our dogs.