Some popular “trainers” insist that dogs are like wolves. And that we must use what we’ve learned about wolves when training our dogs.
Have they ever seen wolves and dogs side by side?
Because if they had, I don’t think they’d be saying dogs are like wolves.
A Wolf Called Romeo
Juneau, Alaska witnessed an amazing thing when a black wolf became attracted to dogs walking with their people. Nick Jans wrote about it in A Wolf Called Romeo, a book I loved. (affiliate)
And it got me thinking.
I’ve seen wolves. I’ve seen dogs. But I’ve never seen them interact with each other.
If Romeo the wolf hung around Juneau dogs for several years, surely someone posted video online. I went looking for it and found this.
It’s a long and shaky video (well, wouldn’t you be excited if you saw a wolf on your afternoon dog walk?).
Move forward to 1:30 to see the first dog pass by Romeo the wolf. Do you see the dramatic contrast?
Romeo is still and economical in his movements. The labrador retriever is wagging and expending energy like he has someone at home with a can opener just waiting to feed him.
As you continue to watch, the dogs look goofy beside the much larger wolf. It’s like watching puppies frolicking around an older dog.
Now check out 3:00. See the relaxed, swish Romeo gives his tail next to the lab wagging his otter tail like it’s generating electricity?
And see how different the two look at 3:45 when the black lab goes in for a butt sniff while Romeo can’t be bothered to respond.
Romeo is curious. He’s sociable. But he doesn’t remind me much of a dog. Not even my childhood dog who may have been 1/4 wolf.
The Problem With Comparing Wolves To Dogs
If you’re thinking about wolves when you’re training your dog, you’re in for trouble. Why?
- The scientist whose observations of captive wolves in the 1970s brought the word “alpha” into our every day language continues to explain why that old research is no longer valid now that scientists have observed naturally formed wolf packs (or families).
- New research has also found that wolves and dogs are not as closely related as scientists thought.
- And finally, why would you train your dog based on a species you don’t know well when you have your dog to learn from every day?
I suspect my dog Honey has much more to teach me than any wolf.
Don’t Despise the Familiar
Dogs are amazing.
They are so tuned into humans and have remarkable abilities to read our emotions and body language.
We can live beside them every day for years and still not know all their secrets.
Wolves are beautiful. Wolves are efficient and wondrous predators. Wolves form tight bonds with each other and work collaboratively with other species, like ravens.
But it’s better for wolves if they live far away from humans. [Spoiler alert: As you’d expect, Romeo’s story does not have a happy ending.]
So let’s love canis familiaris and kick the butts of ignorant banana heads who keep saying dogs are like wolves. Because it just ain’t so.
If you’re as intrigued by Romeo’s story as I was, check out Nick Jans’ book at Amazon by clicking the book image. If you buy something while you’re there, I’ll earn a few cents. Thanks for supporting Something Wagging This Way Comes.