How has the Evolution of the Wolf Influenced the Behaviour of our Dogs?

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

To understand many of the common behaviours we exhibit in our pet dogs, it is important to understand the history of dogs and how they evolved from wolves. Our dogs inherited a great deal of natural behavioural instincts and drives from the wolf, and understanding this fact is key to understanding the behaviour of our dogs, which in turn allows us to effectively train them.

The fact that we know dogs originate from wolves helps us to explain many common behaviours that we, as humans, see in our pet dogs. As time went on and dogs became more domesticated, behavioural differences between wolves and dogs became more apparent as a result of living side by side with humans. Some common behaviours we see in our pet dogs include a natural prey drive, which makes many breeds be on ‘hunting mode’ during a walk. Even though this prey drive is to a much lower extent than wolves, it helps us to explain the reason why when dogs don’t get this hard-wired psychological need satisfied, they develop many behavioural problems including anxiety, frustration and aggression.

So what is prey drive? It is the instinctive behaviour that dogs possess to hunt, pursue and capture prey. The intensity of prey drive in dogs differs according to breed and also according to each individual dog. Some dogs possess little prey drive, whereas the prey drive in other breeds is a lot stronger and it is exhibited in different ways. For example, herding breeds have a strong chase instinct, and hounds prefer to stalk and flush out prey. It is important to train dogs with a strong prey drive, and redirect their natural instinctive behaviour.

A dogs natural instinctive behaviour also comes from certain ‘drives’ they inherited from wolves. Drives are the unconscious, primal motivators in a dogs mind, responsible for all instinctual behaviours. A dogs drives are displayed in their personality and energy. How a dog sees and responds to certain situations, such as food, other dogs, or things that move, all fall under the ‘drives’ category. It is of upmost importance to recognise a dogs drives in order to train and understand them, as drives have immense power over a dogs behaviour. It’s important not too punish dogs for their drives, but too instead redirect their instinctual behaviours into activities to release their energy such as flyball, running, agility, herding or even a long walk.

Stay tuned for the next blog post where we will delve into a dog’s brain, exploring how they learn, how early memories can affect them later on in life, and much more.