The Wolf Is At The Door
That's right: the wolf is at the door. And you better let him out too, or he's liable to poop on your velour carpet.
Yes, we humans have this odd habit of allowing different species into our homes. Sure, it's not always on purpose. We swat flies, trap mice, and shoo pigeons off the windowsill...but we feed and water the dog. What's up with that?
Well, "we" (meaning the species homo sapiens) have apparently been hanging out with "them" (meaning the species Canidae, in this case Canis Familiaris) since the Paleolithic era. Fossilized remains of wolves have been found in the same locations as humans at sites that date back 300,000 years. Yeah yeah I know...there goes the neighborhood.
Explorers found the footprints of a young boy aged about eight to ten in Chauvet Cave in southern France, walking alongside what was identified as "a large canid", carbon-dated as approximately 26,000 years old. A wolf stalking a human? Lupine ethologists say it's unlikely a wolf would track "alongside" its prey--the paw prints would normally be imposed over the footprints, roughly. Was it a boy and his dog? (Someone call Harlan Ellison!)
It's possible: the earliest recorded fossil of a true dog was determined to be around 31,700 years old (found in Goyet Cave in Belgium). Most canine prehistorians think the domestication process started in earnest at the end of the last ice age, 15,000 years ago. That's when humans started gathering in villages alongside rivers--prime fishing and hunting areas. But, a 26,000-year-old dog was found in the Czech Republic that had been buried with a bone in its mouth. Dogs and humans have even been discovered buried together as early as 11,000 years ago in the Americas and 8,500 years ago in Europe.
So it's no wonder that dogs and humans are so tight. We've been practicing--evolutionarily speaking--for centuries.
Oddly enough, most of what we know about canine ethology we've learned in the last forty years. Before that, we were operating on the accumulated knowledge of centuries of association mixed with a huge pile of assumptions: primarily, the assumption that dogs in a state of nature will behave precisely the same as wolves. This assumption has influenced dog training since the earliest times, and yet it doesn't seem to be the case.
Modern wolves haven't spent the last 150 centuries in close proximity to humans, dogs have. That's literally millions of generations of traits that are accumulated deep in the DNA of your Peek-a-poo. Face it folks, there ain't a whole lotta White Fang left in there.
I'm not saying the dog "isn't" a wolf; in the casual sense of the term, they are, just as humans "are" apes. But humans aren't baboons--with the possible exception of politicians--and dogs aren't gray wolves.
Imagine trying to understand pigeons by studying eagles, tigers by studying lions, or humans by studying gorillas. Heck, imagine trying to understand humans at all. I doubt we'll never figure them out.
Even worse, most assumptions about dog behavior based on wolf ethology have themselves been misconceptions. The dominance mentality--still touted by TV personalities such as Cesar Milan--has little relation to the reality of understanding the emotional mentality of wolves in packs, or of the modern dog.
The struggle to establish "pack dominance", "alpha rolls", etc are all dog training techniques based on this misconceived replication wolf behavior, and they have little relevance to understanding the true nature of your dog, and even less to do with their understanding yours.
As I like to tell people at the beginning of a training session: "canis familiaris" earned their name for a reason. They quite literally are "family dogs", and they have been for centuries.