What Is The Difference Between Dogs And Their Cousins The Wolf?

Posted: December 2, 2014 in My Phiosophy On Dog Training
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Let me begin by saying that dogs are not wolves..

But, having said that:

They do share the same instinctual behaviors, all be it diluted by thousands of years of evolution, and stronger in some breeds as compared to others. There is not one behavior that a wolf has that can’t be found to some degree in our domesticated dogs. So what is the difference between dogs and their cousins the wolf?


Let’s take a look at some of those similarities and differences.

Dogs and wolves are both prey driven animals

All dogs are predators and have an instinctual  prey drive that is either very high or very low, or falls somewhere in between the two extremes. depending on the breed of dog.

Prey drive is the instinctual act of giving chase to something that is moving fast. In most cases for dogs that would be the family cat, that squirrel that keeps stealing the bird seed, or maybe the kid that zoomed past the gate on his bike.

When a dog gives chase to a cat it may or may not end up in a kill for the dog, but if that was a wolf chasing the cat..well that cat would be lunch.

Dogs will often kill small animals but very rarely do they eat what they kill. They just bring it to the house and present it to us with a look of, hey see what I brought for you, or stash it somewhere to be rolled on later.

There are many documented cases of dogs chasing someone on a bike and ending up biting that person. I am sure the dog had no intention of killing the person, but the end game of a prey driven chase is to bite something.

The predatory drive in a wolf is very intense and strong, that is why wolf-dog hybrids do not make good pets, you never know which animal you are going to be dealing with, thus making them unpredictable and dangerous for the average pet owner.

Dogs and wolves are both pack driven animals

There is much discussion in the modern dog training world that says that dogs are not true pack animals like wolves are, because a true pack is composed of a mated pair and their off-spring, all of which are related by blood and have a structured hierarchy that determines the ranking within that pack.

With all due respect to those of this opinion, I say bull shit.

I have raised over 50 litters of Blue German Shepherds since 1976 and I can say that without a doubt that the Mother is the highest ranked member of the pack, and she sets the rules for the rest of her litter, but when you take the Mother out of the picture and take a look at how the pups interact in her absence you will quickly see the beauty of the drive for pack rank in all its natural glory.

Note: If the Father of the pups is still around he will not usually take part in the up bringing of the pups.

That is one of the differences between dogs and wolves, in a wolf pack the Father is usually the Alpha and participates in the raising of his pups.


One of the tests I perform to determine the temperament of my pups is to toss a high value food reward like raw chicken or a pork chop in the pen with the pups and watch as they jostle, push, snarl, growl, snap, and bite to determine who is going to get and keep the prize.

The pup that pushes and bites the hardest and has the most confidence in his or her abilities will get the prize and rise to the top of the pack hierarchy and solidify their ranking in the family pack.

This struggle for pack rank continue throughout the life of the dog, even when they are taken home with a person they immediately begin to test and search for their rank in the new family pack.

If you already have dogs at home they have established their ranking and when a new member is added you will see them jostle and test to determine the new ranking order. While dogs are intelligent enough to know that people are not dogs that does not stop them from trying to find their place in the family unit, and to them, people are a part of the pack.

Dogs and Wolves Love To Dig

Wolves love to dig digging, they can dig a hole big enough for a 6 foot man to hide in.

Dogs and wolves dig holes for various reasons here a few of them.

  • wolves dig holes to prepare a den for the upcoming new litter as would a dog if they had no other option.
  • both dogs and wolves dig because it`s fun.
  • dogs and wolves dig to un-earth small rodents, rabbits, or roots that are edible.
  • dogs and wolves get bored and dig to alleviate the boredom.
  • dogs and wolves dig holes to keep cool, the earth is a very efficient air conditioner.

Dogs and wolves are both territorial

For a wolf being territorial is very important to the survival of the pack. They will guard their territory with their lives. Often because resources are limited ( food and mates) sometimes a wolf will run off or kill another wolf or dog for trespassing on territory they have marked as theirs. Some people think that a wolf will mate with feral dogs but this is a myth, a dog would be viewed as a threat or a meal, in either case they would most likely be killed.

Dogs and wolves are destructive

Intelligence and curiosity are the reasons why dogs and wolves love to tear apart everything they see. By the age of three months they want to find out what that thing is made of, and will use their teeth and paws with great intensity. You can train a domesticated dog not to do this, but you cannot train a wolf to stop this behavior, and it would be very wrong to try.

Dogs and wolves love to howl

There are many reasons why dogs and wolves howl, here are a few of them.

  • They are grieving the loss of a pack member.
  • They are preparing for a hunt, or celebrating a successful kill.
  • They howl to alert other pack members of a threat.
  • They howl because it’s fun.
  • They howl because of reasons we know nothing about.

Dogs and wolves are possessive

Both animals will guard what they perceive to be of great value, usually food. They will guard that object with force if need be, until they have no further use for it. When one of my pups becomes possessive, I always use what I call, “give me that and I will give you this”. For example if my dog is guarding a bone that has no meat on it, I will offer him a piece of tasty chicken or steak in exchange for the bone. The dog will gladly give me the bone, it’s a win-win situation.

If you liked today’s post on what is the difference between dogs and their cousins the wolf,  you can let me know by liking my Face Book Page, River Valley Dog Training, or better still why not subscribe to my blog so you never miss one of my exciting and informative musings..lol

all the best.








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