I grew up being taught that ‘Man’ tamed the dog thousands of years ago by capturing wolf pups and domesticating them.
Not true. Well, not entirely…
Current theory is that there was a process of behavioral and physical evolution that ended up with a canine variant that we could live with. It started with wolves in east Asia, perhaps even one wolf [or three?]. Eventually the wolves became something distinctly different…
Humans are social animals. We create packs to protect each other and to spread the chores around. We hunt, we gather, we cook, we clean, we organize as groups. In the past, these groups were tribes. Tribes that had to work together and stay together in order to prevail.
Wolves and dogs are social animals. They hunted in packs to protect each other. Even today, feral dogs live in packs. A solitary dog has little chance of surviving in the wild.
The #1 law of nature is not “Survival of the Fittest” but that those who breed the most have the best chance to survive. And all successful species overbreed until there isn’t enough to go around. Until there aren’t enough resources to sustain their numbers. Then, they either starve, or move on, or find whatever they can to sustain them.
So, dogs and wolves are not only hunters, they are scavengers as well.
Humans don’t eat bones. Wolves and dogs can.
Humans don’t eat animal hide. Wolves and dogs can.
Humans don’t eat rot. Wolves and dogs can.
Humans don’t eat shit. Wolves and dogs can.
So, there were wolves that hung around human encampments and consumed whatever the humans threw away. But the wolves were perfectly willing to eat humans, so the humans had to protect themselves from the wolves by force and fire. And, of course, humans were perfectly willing to eat wolves.
Still, the wolves wouldn’t go away, no matter how far the humans moved, no matter under what circumstance the humans lived, either in trees or caves or on the run.
But the wolves did provide a benefit: they helped protect the tribes by barking at the approach of other humans, and they would make their own kills which the humans could steal from them.
But humans have an amazing capacity for love. Evidently much more so than any other animal. Humans can even love inanimate objects, like trees and sunsets and mountains.
So, we looked upon the wolves and admired them.
As time progressed, humans that were more tolerant of having wolves around had a better chance of surviving. And wolves that were more suitable for interacting with the humans had a better chance of surviving too. That is to say, wolves that were less vicious to the humans, less bloodthirsty for human blood, less fearful of the closeness of the human presence, more useful to the humans.
Their “flight distance” became smaller and smaller.
Eventually, there came a time when the wolves were invited inside the ring of fire. When they became our partners and our companions.
They became members of our packs.
The unwritten contract was that we would give them love, and they would give up their freedom.
This happened about 30,000 years ago, according to some estimates. Or, 16,000 years ago. Certainly no later than 7,000 years ago.
But there is evidence that we used pure wolves 100,000 years ago as guard animals and co-hunters.
The dividing line is the invention of agriculture. Once we started harvesting our food, once we started living in villages, we needed the wolf-dogs to be something different than they had been. Bit by bit, a number of wolf behaviors disappeared or were bred out, until we created something we could use at will, as herders and bodyguards and pack animals.
And our pals.
So, when someone breaks the contract by being cruel to our dogs, they break one of the oldest pacts we have made with Nature. We can tolerate abuse from each other better than we can tolerate abuse to these:
our oldest friends….