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The history of the dog – From predator to pet


Origin of the dog

Dogs are one of the most common pets in the world, and for good reason. They are loyal, protective and spread an incredible amount of love and joy to humans. The strong bond between us and dogs goes way back in time. Humans have therefore had a great influence on the dog’s development throughout history.

Over the centuries, humans have selectively bred dogs to produce a dog with certain specific characteristics and appearances. This has resulted in several hundred different dog breeds.

One thing they all have in common, however, is that they are all descended from the wolf.

The evolution from wolf to dog

To all dog breeds are descended from the wolf is perhaps hard to believe considering that the appearance between different races can differ greatly. However, all the basic characteristics of the dog are genetically derived from the wolf, regardless of breed.

The first dogs are believed to have evolved from wolves 15,000-40,000 years ago. It is believed that they were then mainly used for work tasks such as hunting, guarding and herding cattle. Over time, the relationship between humans and dogs has evolved and changed and today dogs are usually considered pets rather than working animals.

How was the domestication of the dog?

There are different theories about how dogs were domesticated. Two of the theories are usually seen as the most likely.

Some believe it began with humans taking advantage of wolf cubs whose parents they had killed for their meat and fur. The puppies then grew up together with humans who discovered that they were handy both in hunting and as protectors.

Doubters of this theory, however, are skeptical that humans would take responsibility for raising the wolf cubs and waste their limited food and resources on them.

The other theory of how dogs were domesticated is that the wolves themselves became more and more accustomed to humans and approached them on their own initiative. As they became accustomed to the presence of humans, the wolves may have begun to interact more and more with them.

After all, the wolves’ and humans’ lifestyles were very similar. They both lived, for example, in groups where they communicated and cooperated with each other. These similarities are believed to have caused the wolves to be drawn to humans.

This would eventually lead to a natural selection process where the friendlier and more tame wolves eventually evolved into dogs. The wolves that were shy of humans instead became the wild wolves we know today.

This is the most widely accepted theory of how dogs were domesticated because it is consistent with archaeological evidence showing changes in wolf behavior around human settlements.

Wolf in nature

Similarities and differences between wolf and dog

After living alongside humans for many generations, the domesticated wolves had begun to develop a calmer temperament. They also began to change in appearance.

The body became smaller, the noses shorter and the ears less pointed. They also started getting less sharp teeth and different types of fur. Both appearance and temperament had thus been adapted to better suit a life together with man and began to resemble more and more a dog rather than a wolf.


However, the anatomy of the dog is still very similar to that of the wolf in many ways even today. Wolves and dogs are both predators and their hunting instincts and abilities reflect this. Both species can, for example, run long distances and are known for their powerful bites.

The body structure and minds of both species are thus developed to quickly and efficiently catch a prey. Both also have a particularly strong sense of smell, which makes them very good at tracking. They also have very good hearing and vision.

The dog's sense of smell
Close-up of the dog’s nose.


Although there are many similarities between wolves and dogs, there are also some important differences. Wolves have a more rigid spine and their front legs are not as flexible as dogs’. This makes them less agile than dogs and not as good at quickly changing direction.

However, wolves make up for this with their incredible strength. They can run much faster than dogs and their powerful muscles allow them to maintain this speed for long periods of time. Their respiratory system is also very efficient which means they can take in large amounts of oxygen when they run.

Both wolves and dogs are predators, but their methods of hunting differ. Dogs often chase their prey until it tires, while wolves silently stalk their prey until they are close enough to attack.

One of the most notable differences between wolves and dogs is their size. Wolves are much larger than dogs, which gives them an advantage when hunting large prey. However, this also makes them more vulnerable to damage.

More important differences:

  • Wolves have yellowish eyes, while dogs usually have brown or blue eyes
  • The dog’s fur varies greatly in both color, thickness and structure
  • Wolves howl while the dog barks
  • The wolf has a slender body with long legs, while the dog tends to be a bit stockier
Dog with blue eyes
Dog with blue eyes.

The dog’s physique and senses

The wolf’s predatory qualities remain in the dog in the form of its incredibly strong senses. Sight, hearing and sense of smell are all very high. They are also carnivores by nature and anatomically adapted accordingly.


Dogs have wide-angle vision that is extra sharp at long distances. This allows them to easily detect movement of a prey from a distance. However, the vision is not nearly as sharp up close, which means that they can sometimes have difficulty discovering things that are right in front of their eyes.


All dogs have good hearing, but those with the sharpest hearing are the breeds that, like the wolf, have pointed ears. Dogs’ hearing is much more sensitive to sound than humans’, which means they can perceive sounds from much further away.

Hearing is very helpful when dogs track prey, although some dog breeds may rely even more on sight and smell during tracking.

Sense of smell

Dogs have an amazing sense of smell. The part of the dog’s brain dedicated to analyzing smells is significantly larger than the corresponding part in humans.

In fact, the part of the dog’s brain devoted to smell is about 40 times larger than the corresponding part in humans.

This means they can detect very faint scents and follow them over great distances.

Dogs use their sense of smell for many things, including tracking prey, finding mates, and identifying other dogs and their emotional states.


Dogs are carnivores and are therefore anatomically adapted for this. They have sharp teeth that make meat easy to chew and powerful jaws that can crush bones. The front teeth are for biting and grasping their prey, while the long and sharp canines help to split the meat.

Dogs have a very flexible spine and very mobile front legs to facilitate mobility. The legs are designed in a way that allows the dog to quickly change direction without risking the legs coming off. In this way, dogs can easily twist and turn their bodies when hunting prey.

Please read more about the dog’s appearance and physique in our article on dog anatomy.

Dog running
Dog running.


Man has had a large part in the evolution from wolf to the type of dog we know today. Without man, the dog most likely would not have existed and especially not in so many different breeds that exist today.

The wolf’s predatory qualities remain in the dog in the form of its incredibly strong senses. Sight, hearing and sense of smell are very sharp and the hunting instinct remains strong in many breeds. The dog is also carnivorous by nature and anatomically adapted accordingly just like the wolf.

Thanks to domestication, however, the dog has an incredibly strong bond with humans. The dog is loyal and faithful and shares your joy and sorrow just like a close friend or relative. It is therefore no wonder that today the dog is called man’s best friend.

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