When you look at a wolf and a dog, there are many similarities in build, appearance, and the like. They also share an ancient ancestor in Canis Lupis. But there are still many differences between them that continue to set them apart.
These differences are why a dog is unlikely to join a wolf pack, and include:
- As the social life and friendship of a wolf doesn’t extend outside their family group.
- Wolves are territorial– they attack any intruders on their turf.
- A wolf has adapted to a harsh lifestyle that a dog would find tough.
- Dogs are smaller and would look like easy prey to a wolf.
Size alone is a problem. Just the fact that the dog is smaller would make it a lower-ranking animal even if they were accepted into the pack, and the dog would be picked on continually by higher-ranking wolves.
They also have a different mindset – a dog likes to be social, but they are also emotionally developed and form strong bonds with people.
Wolves are a bit different – while they can be loving and caring within their pack, it rarely is extended to outsiders. Although a wolf may seem to be tame, it’s hard to take the ‘wild’ out of them.
Within the pack is a hierarchy that is vigilantly maintained. And the smaller the dog, the less likely it is that they would be accepted.
Why A Dog Would Not Be Accepted
- Wild wolves are often intolerant of other canids – it is the way nature has made them.
- A wolf is larger than a dog and would regard them as fair game to be killed for food.
- A larger dog such as the Kangai, the Alabai, and the Irish Wolfhound could fight off a wolf and hold their own, but a smaller dog would be killed.
- Many wolves are very aggressive towards dogs, even to the extent where the owner is left unharmed after an attack on the dog.
- Wolves are very territorial. A dog trespassing on their turf would be considered an interloper and chased or killed.
- A pack has its own rules, and each member is aware of this. The dog doesn’t operate under the same rules, so would not be tolerated.
- A wolf pack is usually a family group; they are all related, therefore the dog would not have that family relationship and would be considered an outsider.
- A larger dog would seem to be a rival to the leader of the pack, while a smaller dog would be seen as food, so the dog doesn’t have a good chance of mixing socially with the group.
The Life of a Wolf
To understand why a dog would not just slot into a wolfpack way of life, you have to understand how the wolf lives.
- At the head of the pack are the leading pair, a strong male and female wolf often said to be the Alpha wolves – they are the most important pair that guide, lead and protect the pack. These are the only two that are allowed to breed, and they are the first to eat.
- After that comes the second-in-command wolves, often known as the Beta wolves.
- Mid-ranking wolves come after that, followed by the lowest ranking Omega wolves. These lower-ranked animals are picked on by the others, and they are often bullied by the other members.
- Wolves, in general, don’t eat as often as a dog is used to. They have evolved to last longer between meals, and when they have food, they eat as much as they can.
- Wolves are also physically stronger than a dog, and they can run a lot faster for a lot longer. They cooperate to hunt down and cut out an animal from a herd to kill and eat.
- While there are solitary wolves, it is usually for a short time or until they join another pack, as it is harder to catch and kill the game without the help of the other members of a pack.
- Even just the hierarchy of the pack and the organization would be hard for a dog to cope with.
- And quite frankly, the life of a wolf is pretty tough! Cold freezing temperatures, lack of cover, uncertain mealtimes, and hunting can bring injury and death.
What Wolves and Dogs Have in Common
The wolf and the dog do share common traits such as the following.
- They both have tightly knit families, and young pups are well cared for.
- Both the wolf and dog are carnivorous, although dogs have evolved to eat a more varied diet.
- Both have 42 teeth, but the wolf has longer canines than dogs do.
- Both animals ‘play bow’ when they want to play; this is where they bow to invite the others to play with them and show that what they are doing is just for play. Even the regal wolf likes to have a wrestle and play to let off steam once in a while.
- Both love attention. While dogs are more likely to approach strangers, the cautious wolf will take a long time to trust a human, but when they do, they will give thanks for attention by tail wagging and licking.
- Both creatures whine, whimper, and growl, while wolves are more likely to howl than bark.
- Both indicate displeasure with bared teeth and flattened ears. And when they are happy, they wag their tail.
- With both the dog and the wolf, you must earn their trust, but a dog is more likely to accept you than a wolf.
Different Lifestyles and Attitudes Prevent Mixing
The adult wolf is very intelligent, and they have strong problem-solving skills. The pack members know how to work their prey, and they use the leverage of a large pack to survive and thrive.
They know how to use the resources they have to survive, and their lives are shaped by evolutionary pressures that allow them to find food, keep themselves safe, and produce offspring without the help of humans.
Whereas the dog of today has been thoroughly domesticated. They have adapted to living with humans, share their food, their home, and have become part of the family. They depend on the humans for food and shelter, in exchange for friendship, loyalty, and companionship.
They can be trained to round up the sheep, herd the flock or watch over the geese, without harming them and, in fact, will strive to protect them from wolves.
The wolf has no conception of protecting another animal unless it is one of their own. They will attack and kill as they require food.
So wolves and dogs have traveled different paths, and their approach to life is as different as night is from day.
Wolves and dogs are interfertile, which means that they can breed together and produce offspring. While this can happen or is encouraged in a captive situation, it is rare in the wild as wolves are territorial by nature.
A hybrid wolf/dog will always retain some unpredictability of the wolf.
Wolves versus Dogs
It isn’t a contest between the wolf and the dog, because they have evolved to be two different species of animal. They live very different lives, even if they had an ancient connection in the past.
They think differently, live differently, and are guided by a different set of rules.
Whereas the wolf is intimidating, strong, and self-reliant, the dog is warm, affectionate, and willing to comply with their master’s wishes.
Both are guided to survival by the environment that they live in. The wolf though has more independent thought and a tougher path to forge than our companions the dog.
The wolf is not evil when it hunts to kill, it is just how it is.
The dog is not to be sneered at for combining with humans for an easier life. It is just how it is. The dog adds value, companionship to our life, whereas a wolf makes their own rules.
It is these vital differences in thought created by evolution that would make it highly unlikely that a wolf would accept a dog into its pack.
A strange dog on their turf would be considered dinner.
The Last Remarks
The wolf is a magical animal. We have elevated the wolf to almost a super status combining legend and terror of the pack to create an almost mythical beast.
The wolf is neither good nor bad; it just does what it has to, to survive. They are majestic, aloof, yet so much like the dog, they are hard to ignore.
They have had to adapt to a lifestyle so far different from that of our beloved dog companion that it would be a mistake to assign dog-like attributes to them.
The wolf even seems to harbor resentment, or perhaps it is a competitive streak towards the dog. They have been known to attack a dog yet leave the owner alone. Perhaps they sense the similarity between them, and from a wolf’s point of view, competition is a signal to conquer the rival.
So the likelihood of a dog being accepted into a wolf pack is remote. Perhaps a young puppy would be accepted, but a full-grown dog on the wolf’s turf, would most likely be killed and eaten. That is nature’s way.
Writer: Jean Brewer