View Full Version : Most and least wild traits in domesticated dogs?

05-09-2005, 01:04 PM
I just read Desmond Morris's book Catwatching, which explains a lot of cat behaviors in a biological context (e.g. Why do cats bury their feces? A: Because they're afraid of you, since you're the "dominant cat" in the area, and they want to tone down their scent displays) and that (plus encounters with some very yappy crazy small dogs on my way to work) got me thinking about dog behaviors.

Dogs such as golden retrievers are typically very friendly towards everyone, not very territorial, crave lots of human affection, etc. This seems at odds with normal pack behavior in wolves and wild dogs. Which traits or behaviors are least like the ones you would observe in wild dogs? What breeds of dogs are the "most domesticated" behaviorally (not morphologically)?

05-09-2005, 08:56 PM
As you probably know, ANY dog will revert to wild when hurt or severly threatened.
My preference is Labs. All they want to do is jump in water! And love you.

05-09-2005, 11:54 PM
One of the least domesticated and most dangerous is the wolf hybred. They can be really deceptive. I had much rather be around a wolf. The hybreds have much of the strength of wolves, but they are more aggressive toward human beings.

05-09-2005, 11:57 PM
Didn't Morris do a book on dogs as well?

05-10-2005, 07:28 AM
Didn't Morris do a book on dogs as well?

Illustrated Dogwatching perhaps?


05-10-2005, 09:49 AM
I don't know much about wild dogs...but one major trait of domesticated dogs that is something they share with their ancestors is a "pack mentality." When they join your family they are joining a new pack. And if you don't assert yourself as the pack leader then you end up with somewhat of a misbehaved dog.

Cat Jones
05-10-2005, 09:56 AM
My preference is Labs. All they want to do is jump in water! And love you.

And eat - don't forget eat, forget Dyson, Hoover et al. get a Lab !

I think dog 'personality ' and amount of contact with other dogs comes into play when answering the OP. Our mongrel lived to 18 she was full of energy until about 16 and would still (apologies for those who disapprove of such things) lick my Dad's face given the chance, she stopped doing it to me and my brother much sooner ... he was obvioulsy top dog alothough not sure how much food he was ever going to regurgitate for her !

05-10-2005, 09:40 PM
A very complex and somewhat misleading question.

Being friendly, not-at-all territorial, craving affection and generally submissive is normal behaviour for the majority of wolves, or at least those that survive for more than a couple of years. You need to remeber4 that the majority of wolves are necessarily not pack alphas. That’s as true of the females as the males. All the other animals have to remain submissive in much the same way as a Labrador is they don’t; want to get the s**t beaten out of them generally, with a real risk of being ejected from the pack or killed.

Now in wild wolves there’s a fine line being walked with that behaviour. A wolf that refuses to be affectionate and submissive that is unable to become a top animal will die, there’s little doubt of that. The top animal will eventually either kill it or drive it off to starve if it fights for dominance every single day. However any wolf that has no drive at all to challenge for supremacy is doing itself a major evolutionary disservice. While there are risks to challenging the rewards in terms of reproduction are massive. Added to that a wolf that buckles to easily to threats will receive far less than its share of food.

As a result wolves have evolved to show submission most of the time if they are not pack leaders but at the same time they will become seriously aggressive occasionally and when they are pack leader. So the most pathetically fawning Labrador is still exhibiting perfect wolf behaviour. It’s not showing any behaviour you wouldn’t see routinely in wolves.

The key lies in understanding that for all our selective breeding of wolves all we have really done is bred certain wolf behaviours out of them. We haven’t introduced one single trait that isn’t seen in wolves as the result of all that breeding. You ask which traits or behaviours of domestic dogs are least like the ones you would observe in wild dogs, and the answer is: None of them. Not one single behavioural trait that has been bred ‘into’ domestic dogs isn’t identical to ones that h\would be observed in wild dogs. All that we have done with all our selection is to remove some traits.

So a labrador is exhibiting behaviour exactly like you would see in a wolf no matter how submissive it is. The only difference is in the behaviour it is not exhibiting. It isn’t exhibiting aggression or other signs of dominance as often as you would observe in wolves. But the submissive behaviour isn’t any different to that seen in wolves.

What all that means is that the question “What breeds of dogs are the "most domesticated ‘behaviourally’ ” really doesn’t have any answer. All breeds of dog are domesticated to the extent of having some wolf behaviour largely bred out of them. Some breeds like Labradors have had the aggressive behaviours selected against but the drive to return food to the pack is stringer than it ever was in wolves. Other breeds are notably more aggressive and dominant than Labradors though still less so than wolves, but they have had the drive to return food all but removed, or the drove to hunt.