Behavior

The dog → The wolf

Why should we study wolves?

Recent studies have shown that dogs display 90 behavioral patterns, and all of them but 19 are also present in wolves.

If we consider the 71 analogies in behavior between dogs and wolves, observing wolves will become easier in order to understand our domesticated dogs, taking into account that wolves are a species that has not been modified by domestication.

The origins of dogs:

It belongs to the Carnivora order (55 millions years ago) → family Canidae → Pseudocynodictis (25 millions years ago) → Tomarctus (6 millions years ago) resulting in: wolf, dingo, jackal, fox.

The wild wolf (Canis Lupus): its first encounter with men was presumably about 15.000 years ago, when men were nomads and hunters. There were countless encounters between packs of wolves and small tribal communities belonging to the mesolithic and neolithic cultures; through the different centuries the feelings derived from those meetings changed from fear, mistrust, caution then tolerance, leading to break the boundaries of the differences between the two species and achieve a sort of friendship.

This is where domestication starts.

Domestication: the process of taming an animal so that it can live among and with people, recognizing their leadership.

This process has involved lots of mutations in behavior, life and physiology.

The beginning of domestication: men started capturing wolves puppies, raising them in captivity, without allowing them to go back into the wild. They chose the less aggressive subjects to be the reproductive ones, so that the offspring would better tolerate the cohabitation with men. The selection then became more accurate, according to the characteristics men wanted their new pets to have.

It is obvious that the selected subjects progressively lost the characteristics belonging to their ancestors.

Primitive people dealt with dogs ancestors in peculiar and diverse ways, this is also important to bear in mind, let’s think for example to the Ciukci people, those who selected the ancestor of the actual Siberian Husky: animals were free to move around, so they might have had occasional contact with the wild world, females in heat might have been impregnated by wild wolves, meaning that the contamination with the wild could have been frequent up to recent times.

Canis Lupus  Canis Familiaris

in order to study dogs behavior it is necessary to learn the social organization of wolves: the pack.

A social group of animals organized according to specific hierarchical rules.

Pack hierarchy and roles

1° Leader of the pack + alpha female: the leader is the center of the pack and the role model, he does all the decision-making for the pack to survive, maintains balance and coordinates activities, he can understand and meet the pack needs, his role includes these tasks:

  • choice of hunting and living territory

  • defense against intruders

  • search of preys and hunting decisions

  • maintenance of harmony in the pack

The alpha is usually very kind and friendly towards his subordinates and this is the reason why his position is well consolidated: fights are more frequent among inferior ranks and usually end quite fast, participants rarely get severely wounded even though seeing one of these fights could make us think quite the opposite).

The alpha female: females have the very important role of guaranteeing the reproduction of the species; in order to have suitable offspring, the alpha female is the only one allowed to mate with the leader of the pack.

2° Alpha subjects: defense of the territory and hunting; 2 year-old wolves, the age of social collocation, which are not able to become leaders have two choices: to leave the pack or to acknowledge the leader authority and help him defend the territory and hunt.

3° Medium hierarchical rank subjects: males which do not possess alpha characteristics can participate in activities giving their support according to their physical abilities, e.g. they let the prey tire out during the hunt, they actively participate in keeping the pack together and have a very important role in the training and education of puppies.

The other females have the task of surveilling the offspring in every situation; moreover, in order to guarantee the survival, they produce milk even without having mated. They all defend the inner territory of social relations and have a role in the education of puppies, too.

4° Omega subjects: the elderly and puppies; these put their leader at the center of attention, they treat him with respect, they make him way and let him make all decisions.

Being an animal means needing your own kind to survive;

entity ↔ pack; the highest efficiency of one is in function of the wellbeing of the pack, every element of the pack has a very precise role, everyone from the leader to the last one on the hierarchical scale work in harmony with the same aim: the protection of the species.

The pack is self-sufficient / cooperative / very solid / socially organized.

Its structure is kept thanks to demonstration of trust and respect and not with expressions of aggressiveness.

Everyone has a very specific role that is diligently respected.

The leader uses RITUALIZED BEHAVIOURS and INDIFFERENCE AS A SIGN OF HIS SUPERIORITY to confirm his hierarchical position; he does not claim his position with violence but through ritualization, because in nature it is always the solution involving less energy loss to be the winning one!

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