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Domestication of the Modern Dog

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sciences
Wordcount: 2686 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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 It is worth noting that the modern day scientists have no exact idea on where the wolf-like creature that formed into the modern dog originated from.  The general assumption held is that they may have come from Europe however, other evidence points out that the dog may have its origin back in Asia. Our human ancestors came across the dog’s wolf-like ancestors approximately 9000- 34000 years ago (Clutton-Brock, n.d).  The relationship that was started many centuries between dog and man continue to this present day. Notably, the wolf-like ancestor became extinct a long time ago. It is worth noting that among the first animals to be domesticated were dogs. The early man started keeping dogs even before domesticating cows and goats as well as before the invention of agriculture or establishment of permanent homes.

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Scientists have managed to establish a broad picture tracing the origin of dogs.  As mentioned above, dogs originated from wolf-like ancestors. Hence, some scientists cling to the idea that the dogs evolved from a wolf-like creature. One day, a visionary hunter who was also a gatherer snitched a wolf puppy from its den.  He, therefore, went ahead to raise thus taming the wolf in the process.  In sum, the hunter increased his breed of wolves and added more wolves into his stock. However, the above theory may not appear to hold water as the researchers claim that it is very difficult to tame a wolf. Secondly, out of a rough estimation of one billion dogs across the globe, just a quarter of them rare kept pets. Otherwise, a significant population of dogs can be found running free in villages, scavenging for foods at dumpsites as wee contributing to thousands of human deaths every year as a result of rabies. Although dogs appear to be friendly, they are not good friends sometimes. Modern dogs display very different behaviors compared to the wolves.  Whereas wolves cannot eat comfortably in the midst of people, dogs do. Dogs have wider and shorter snouts. In addition, they do not live in pack structures or survive on their own. In a bid to draw a distinct line between dogs and wolves, a fact of nature should be incorporated instead of using an arbitrary line.

Tracing the Dog’s Origin

It is worth noting that the researchers addressing the origin of the modern dogs reveal that the canines were domesticated between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. Every archaeologist and geneticists have their personal opinion of when and where dogs originated.  A 14,700-year-old jawbone is classified as the oldest as well as the undeniable fossil from a domesticated dog. On the contrary, dog-like remains can be dated back to as old as 35,000 years ago.

According to the report given by the genetic data, the fore parents of the modern dog are split into two classes. One that gave rise to the East Asian breeds as well as the Africans dog, modern European, Central Asian, and South Asian dog breed (Hewson, 2003).

The most recent research on the origin of dogs offers little timing of the domestication of this organism. It is critical to point out that both wolves and dogs indicated a difference in genetic composition between 36,900 and 41,500 years ago. On the other part, the eastern and western dogs split 17,500-23,900 years ago. Between these two historical events, domestication is thought to have occurred between 20,000-40,000 years ago.

Therefore, since the split is considered to have occurred to take place several years ago after the very first appearance of dogs in East Asia and Europe.

No matter the origin of the dogs, it is essential to point out their uniqueness including their relationship to man.  Through human influence, the modern dogs were shaped into different canines that we know of.

Domestication Process

The term domestication is used to refer to two interwoven processes. The first procedure is whereby the biological process looks like the natural evolution. In this process, the parent animals are kept away from the wild group for production purposes. Through inbreeding, a process of genetic shift occurs. With time, the founder groups tend to increase and genetically alter the natural selection due to various factors such as; the changes in the environment and human influence. The tamed wolves then gradually became less and less wild (Perri, 2014).

The second process of domestication is the cultural process whereby early humans are thought to have taken possession of wolves and integrated them into society. Therefore, the wolf changed from a carnivore to be part and parcel of human society by adapting the physical characteristics such as aesthetics roles, economic life, and individual ownership.

Human beings hold a significant impact not only on the origin of dogs but also their evolution procedure better known as domestication. Although the origin of dogs is still under study, the most common theory is human being tamed a group of friendly wolves.

Behavioral Characteristics of Domestication

There was a mutual relationship between the tame wolves and the early man (Vila, 1997). The wolf-pack territories that were established around human camps provided a natural protection against the threat of various predators as well as human competitors.  This, therefore, resulted in an ecological niche which enhanced the proto-dog to undergo some genetic and novel morphological changes that gradually evolved to a modern domestic dog.

It is worth noting that this type of close contact requires the species in question to be fearful and reduced tendency to flee.  Other temperaments traits also made it possible for the man to domesticate the dog.  The dog demonstrated a high social tolerance and human friendliness that made the early man to easily interact with the dog.

Facial expressions in communication: Apart from language, human beings also utilize facial communication in passing information. Most animals have an inactive way of communication. However, dogs use their facial expressions in communicating with humans.  This implies how dogs are sensitive towards man’s attention.

 Hyper sociability: It gets quite challenging to believe that the modern dogs we love to keep originated from two populations of friendly wolves.  However, the big question is how a wolf-like creature became friendly to man. Some scientists argue that this could be attributed to the WBS (Williams-Beuren Syndrome) genome that is also present in humans (Lallensack, 2017).

This genome makes people get extremely friendly, trusting and outgoing. Thus, this genetic variation might have significantly contributed to the behaviors we associate with the modern dog.

Eye Contact:  it is essential to note that there is no other canine that can afford to make eye contact like the modern dog.  Dogs do it perfectly.  This is because they can search for information as well as directions.  They can as well keep a stare into human’s eyes. Notably, this aspect may give us a clue about how man became successful in domesticating the dog.

Ability to scent mark and alarm bark: notably, wolves also can perform such behaviors however very less often do they.  All the domestic dogs can bark, and this sends a functional or communicative value to the owner (Prato-Previde  & Marshall-Pescini, 2014).  The aggressive behavioral traits are more enhanced in dogs compared to the wolves.

These features demonstrate the fact that dogs can have an easy socialization process with humans. The domestication of dogs was not only more tolerant but also attentive compared to the wolves.

How Man became Successful in Domesticating the Dog

It is important to appreciate the fact that cooperation is a very significant aspect in human societies. The domestication process has equipped the dogs with two abilities that are essential for a cooperative problem-solving.

Social Tolerance:  In the feeding context, this aspect could be explained to mean the close proximity of people during meal times.  In a bid to explain this point, it is important to highlight the fact that it is much easier for a tolerant individual to outdo the less tolerant people during the performance of a cooperative task.  In the same vein, therefore, it has been proposed that a tamer temperature combined with a reduced fear as well as aggression could be attributed to the higher success of the modern dogs establishing a communicative and cooperative interaction with human beings in the society.

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Social attentiveness:  this is the ability to demonstrate adequate attention to a person’s partner in a bid to adjust their behavior which leads to cooperation.  On the other part, attentiveness towards a potential partner varies from one species to another as well as the context.  The modern dogs have demonstrated success in multiple tasks that require a high level of attention towards human and conspecifics (Switek, 2012). It is worth noting how the young dogs pay attention to the human pointing better by keeping a straight look at the human more readily than the wolves raised by man. Under the influence of positive feedback processes dogs have been able to enhance their social attentiveness in comparison with the wolves (Losey, n.d). This is the reason why humans have established a complex way of human-dog communication as well as cooperation.  Therefore, social attention is a trait that defines the extent to which an individual demonstrates attentiveness towards its companion as well as keeping an eye on their interactions and behavior.

The two behavioral characteristics show that dogs have better social skills than the wolves. An animal behaviorist set up an experiment testing the social skills of the two animals. The procedure consisted of an equal number of wolves and dogs. The scientist then conducted some training on all animals on how to open a carton box that contained some pieces of sausages in it.  The canines were then ordered to have the boxes open in three different situations; in the presence of an unfamiliar person, with a familiar person and without anyone at all.  Surprisingly, the wolves did better than the dogs in all the three circumstances.  Notably, this does not show that the dogs could not open the boxes in front of people. Instead, they were on the lookout to perform it with humans. This shows the unique genes that dogs have that make them so human-friendly compared to the wolves.

Consequently, this feature explains why domesticating a dog is much easier than a wolf. Due to their high level of sociability skills, modern dogs crave for human company.  On the other part, the wolves demonstrated their good problem-solving skills by being able to retrieve the pieces of sausage from the carton box.

While the wolves embarked on their tasks right away, the dogs spent time gazing at humans while wagging their tails. DNA tests revealed a similarity link between humans and dogs, for instance, certain behaviors such as attentiveness to unfamiliar people and picking up social cues and other genetic changes (Wayne, 2012).

It is essential to appreciate the several ways in which a dog’s companionship serves human beings in the current world. As a result of the domestication process, these canines enjoy a unique status as companion animals (Range, F., & Virányi, n.d).  However, it is critical to understand the manner in which the animal achieved such status in human society.

The Artificial Selection Theory

According to the Artificial selection theory, the early man achieved success in taking wild wolf puppies.  The puppies would then be bred and trained to accompany man in performing tasks such as hunting as well as providing protection from possible predators.  It is essential to note that as time went by, the tamed wolves bred amongst themselves and gradually increased in number. In the long run, after thousands of years, there was a large population of new wolves that were modern dogs (Serpell, n.d).

Darwin likens the evolution of life to a process of natural selection. It is a competitive struggle for survival.  This implies that the species that can survive must attain particular characteristics such as; ability to survive in cases of limited resources, space, inadequate food, dodge various predators and attack from diseases as well as ability to withstand erratic changes in the environment and climate. These characteristics enable them to survive and reproduce.

Darwin states that the variations that have proved significant to man have occurred, therefore, given that we cannot at any single moment doubt the occurrence of such variations, other variations that are helpful to every being in one way or the other in this complicated life battle should as well occur in the course of a thousand years. Therefore, those individuals with numerous advantages over others stand a higher chance of surviving as well as procreating their kind. This theory explains how natural selection favored the evolution of the modern dog.

Evidence of Domestication

It is worth noting that without the presence of any fossil evidence that proves the existence of dogs 14,000 years ago, it can only be assumed that the early man had established close ties with the tame wolves dating back to 400,000 years ago. 

The Natufian burial site located in Israel is sufficient evidence of the domestication process.  The site contains remains of a man with two canines that were positively identified as dogs. Another burial site contains a woman skeleton clutching what resembles a dog puppy or tame wolf. The archeological evidence, therefore, implies that the domestication was a close relationship to early hominids. These findings confirm that the domestication of dogs might have occurred prior to about 14,000 years ago.


  • Clutton-Brock, J. (n.d.). Origins of the dog: The archaeological evidence. The Domestic Dog
  • Hewson, C. J. (2003). Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 83(1).
  • Lallensack, R. (2017). Ancient genomes heat up dog domestication debate. Nature.
  • Losey, R. J. (n.d.). Domestication and the embodied human–dog relationship. Dogs in the North.
  • Perri, A. (2014). Dog: Domestication. Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology.
  • Prato-Previde, E., & Marshall-Pescini, S. (2014). Social Looking in the Domestic Dog. Domestic Dog Cognition and Behavior.
  • Range, F., & Virányi, Z. (n.d.). Social cognition and emotions underlying dog behavior. The Domestic Dog.
  • Serpell, J. (n.d.). Introduction. The Domestic Dog.
  • Switek, B. (2012). How did humankind tame the wolf? New Scientist, 214(2871)
  • Vila, C. (1997). Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog. Science, 276(5319).
  • Wayne, R. K. (n.d.). Consequences of domestication: morphological diversity of the dog. The genetics of the dog.


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