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Nov 12, 2019

What's the difference between dogs and wolves?

By Bryn Pottie
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Looking at a husky, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s more like a wolf than a pug. In fact, a husky could successfully interbreed with both! However, when it comes down to it, the husky and the pug are both dogs and the wolf is not. So, what exactly is the difference between a dog and a wolf anyhow? Why is one a pet while the other is a threat? Let's dig a bit deeper...

A different history

Dogs and wolves share a common ancestor, but scientists believe that they became different species around 30,000 years ago, (give or take 15,000 years or so). While wolves continued to evolve in the wild, the story of dogs is directly intertwined with humans. It is believed they scavenged near human settlements, then were domesticated over many generations. Dogs have evolved into many different breeds, especially in the past 200 years or so. These different breeds can be specialized to perform different tasks, or take on different attitudes and characteristics. Wolves however, have been in roughly the same environment the whole time, so they haven’t undergone as many changes.

Physical differences

Because dog breeds vary so much, this can get a little complicated, but here are the basics:

Wolves have much stronger teeth, although dogs and wolves have the same number of them. Dogs heads are a rounder shape and have much smaller paws. In addition, while some dogs have different shaped ears and tails, wolves do not. The colour of a dog’s eyes and coat also has much more variety than a wolf’s, who relies on camouflage in the wild.

Puppies

Dogs can have puppies any time, but because they have a harsh winter to prepare for, wolf puppies are only born in the spring. It’s a lot harder out there for a wolf puppy than a dog, so they grow up a lot faster. In fact, wolf puppies open their eyes and socialize 50% sooner than dogs do. While dog puppies develop lasting bonds with humans, that bond will typically weaken between a human and a wolf at around six months of age.

Eating habits

If you’re thinking of getting your dog back to its roots and feeding it like a wolf, think twice. These animals have each evolved very different dietary needs. Both require a high protein diet, but while wolves are pure carnivores, dogs are actually omnivores. That means that dogs require grains and vegetables to be healthy, and wolves just need meat. Dogs can get very sick from overeating or eating too fast, but because a wolf never knows where it’s next meal will come from, it will eat a lot in one sitting.

Behavioural difference

Monkeys and humans share most of their DNA, but we're not interchangeable with our primate pals. The same can be said for dogs and wolves. Remember, a dog can be your best friend, and how it behaves is a reflection of how it is treated. A wolf however, is a wild animal that can never fully be trusted to behave a certain way.

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