Are Dogs Evolving as we speak?

Dogs have been the companions of humans for about 15,000 years so far, and recent research suggests that the dogs have evolved in ways that make them able to understand humans very well. For example, dogs have leaned that whining usually elicits human sympathy, and that begging behavior genrally pays off in terms of attention, extra food, etc.
Given that dogs can reproduce at age 1, are we actually seeing evolutionary change in thee animals? genetically, they remain close to wolves, but they seem to have picked up much that is not wolf-like.
How long untill we see talking dogs evolve?

My dog, Suzy, says that it’s just our imaginations. Then she went back to work on that odd doomsday device she was working on.

So I guess not.

Yes they’re evolving as we speak. Everything is evolving from one generation to the next. Its not like evolution takes a break for a while and the comes back like “Hey how was everything while I was away? Oh really? Well looks like I’m going to change all that right this instant, just lemme grab a beer first.”

And yea. Dogs are fairly different from wolves. And how long until we see talking dogs? Depends. One COULD say that dogs are talking right now and we just don’t understand them. Or someone could genetically engineer a talkative poodle in the next 20 years. Or if no one really cared enough to engineer something like that we might see it in the next 1 to 50000000 dog generations. Random chance makes up a big portion of it really.

No. Dogs have a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors but they only reproduce within their God-given range of DNA programming. You won’t be seeing any talking dogs. People might tolerate scientists doing bizarre DNA swaps on rats and pigs and sheep but they are not going to tolerate some scientist attempting to mangle our most faithful pets just to see what might happen.

That’s my prediction. I sure hope I’m right. Some of the mutants that scientists have already caused are very sad to see…

Dogs have trouble evolving as they are subject to much human intervention. Remember dogs won’t evenutally evolve into Humans. That is not what evolution is.

Dogs evolove into being better dogs. This probably isn’t happening as humans are corrupting dogs natural ways. (This could be for better or worse.)

If dogs could talk, they’d no longer be man’s best friend, that’s for sure. :wink: :smiley:


I’m sorry, I may have missed something. What exactly, if anything, does “bizarre DNA swaps” have to do with the possible evolution of talking dogs?

Allow me to be the first to ask for a cite.

Dogs are evolving, but not as they would if we stayed out of the process. Many of the traits which dogs have today are there, not because they are adapting to human companionship, but because we have selected for them. This is, of course, an example of artificial, as opposed to natural, selection.

Your personifying dogs unnecessarily and also confusing instinct with learned behaviors. Wolves “whine” just like domesticated dogs and what we call “begging” is just a beta-omega dog waiting for the alpha to finish eating. Humans can reinforce these instincts by feeding or petting them when they whine.

Domestic dogs do, in fact, communicate differently than wolves. For instance, dogs bark much more and howl less than wolves. It’s not so much evolving new dog behavior as it is manifesting natural canine behavior in varying degrees.

For a dog to be capable of human speech, its physiology, including brain structure, would probably have to be so different we might have trouble calling it a dog.

As for people not putting up with our favorite pets being “mangled,” look at some of the breeds that have been created already, in which congenital defects are commonplace. Also, there’s the whole issue of docking and cropping.

I don’t know, but I think we’re close.

Dogs laugh. Mine will approach me and chortle in a multi-octive voice as if they’re trying to talk. They can’t make sounds that require lip movements only humans can perform, but some breeds (Portuguese Water Dogs, Basenjis) can make noises that sound eerily human.

Yes, dogs are evolving because there are forces shaping which dogs are more successful at surviving so as to transfer their genes to the next generation.

No, evolving dogs do not mean more intelligent or articulate dogs. Evolving dogs means that the species is adapting to the environment through selection over generations. Not all evolutionary forces select for intelligence or language. Some very fit and ‘evolved’ species, like insects, are quite dumb.

No, human interference (apart from direct genetic manipulation) is not something apart from ‘natural selection.’ Just because we label what humans do as ‘artificial’ does not mean that it is no longer a part of nature.

To clarify: There are many species that rely upon each other and have shaped each other’s evolution, e.g., flowers and bees. Human beings, who have been created through natural causes and shaped by natural selection, are part of nature. If we influence the evolution of dogs through breeding, it is not unnatural. Both species help each other survive to the next generation.

We’ve worked the same deal out with cultivated vegetation and livestock. You think cows could have gone this far without us? The cows use us to ensure their survival by offering up plump, yummy calories and protein.

As an aside, dogs have been bred by us to have a unique type of intelligence: reading human cues. No other animal is so attentive to humans and is obsessively thinking about us and what we’re going to do next. Which just goes to show you where the evolution of dogs is heading… pollsters and market analysists.


“I wuv you Weorge!” - Astro

I beg to differ. Artifical selection refers to the selection of traits which are not required for survival, but are, rather, selected by us, based on our whims. That is quite separate from natural selection (which operates as well). The traits which domestic dogs exhibit in the various breeds are primarily the result of artificial, not natural, selection. Darwin recgonized the power of artificial selection, which is why he used half of The Origin of Species to draw an analogy between how a breeder (in the case of Origin, he focused primarily on pigeon breeding) works and how nature works.


However, domestic dogs as a group would not exist but for the selective breeding of wolves during the process of dometication. Artificial selection does represent “unnatural” selection in a sense, because it has little to do with survival/adaptation and everything to do with arbitrary aesthetics and usefulness to ourselves. Again, the evolution of dogs (and most domesticated organisms, really) is not characterized by adapting to life with humans, it’s characterized humans consciously directing that evolution.

Still, one has to marvel at the extraordinary plasticity of dog breeds. Even within this one species (or subspecies, or whatever), you find an extraordinary range of sizes, body proportions, intelligence, temperament etc. that I would say far exceeds that of humans, or of most mammals. So maybe the question should be:

If, instead of breeding dogs for coat color, size extremes, or what have you, humans were to decide to select dogs solely for intelligence, brain size, problem solving and comprehension, how long would it take to produce a dog with smarts equivalent to the average human? Bear in mind that I’m talking old-fashioned breeding techniques here, not some hypothetical gene-splicing scenario.

My uninformed guess would be that it wouldn’t take very long at all, perhaps only a few hundred years. Dogs are pretty clever already, sometimes eerily so. I think we simply take their intelligence for granted out of familiarity, but really it’s sort of like having a four-legged Neanderthal around the house.

Dogs are “evolving” and we, humans, are the environment they are evolving in. Many of the dog vs wolf behaviors are the result of our breeding dogs for juvenile wolf characteristics (prolonged barking, for example). However, domestic dogs and wolves are still the same species. It is really unknown when dogs became domesticated. Estimates vary from 15k to 150k years ago. It is thought, from DNA studies, that all domestic dogs are descended from central Asian wolves. That was on the news wires within the last few months.

I’ve also seen that most of the breeds that are common today are recent arrivals on the scene (within the last 500 yrs or so). It has been shown that when dogs go ferrel, and interbreed within themselves, they tend to produce medium sized animals with somewhat curly tails and fairly short hair. You see this all around the world where dogs are not fully controlled by humans.

No. They wait until we are sleeping.

Hey! Stop trying to hijack this into another Michael Jackson thread already!

if dogs could talk… they would be sharing some nasty secrets about their human companions. we do some pretty strange things when we think no one is looking.

It’s true that we could say successful genes in domestic animals predominate in response to the environment (which happens to include humans in a big way.) But then I would ask moriah and John Mace: just what is artificial selection. Or would you say that humans are part of nature, there is nothing artificial about our selection process, and we shouldn’t make the distinction.

It seems to me distinguishing between mutations intentionally encouraged by humans to dominate and those which give the organism a reproductive advantage if the thing is left alone is worthwhile. No?

ravelyn: How true!
This topic makes me want to give my pooches a great big hug.

Oh… “Hi,” everyone! First time poster.

cats will probably speak before dogs. do people talk to their cats more then their dogs?

Any evolution tht a dog goes through will be better for humans. Surviving wise, dogs have it really easy. So the only thing they can improve on is being better companions for humans.

But any noticable and super cool evolution would happen in one giant move and not over generations.