Stage One:   

Birth – 8 weeks in original home,
Stage Two: 8 – 12 weeks in new home,
Stage Three: 12 – 18 weeks in puppy class
Stage Four:  During adolescence (18 weeks –> 2-3 years) in the world at large. 

Stage Five:Adulthood

Boxer puppy dog under chair. Cottage in the Peak District
Boxer puppy dog under chair. Cottage in the Peak District

Evolution of dogs

New genome research reveals a much longer relationship with dogs than we first thought.

Research on the origin of the domestic dog is now starting to build a picture of the time, location, and dispersion, of how dogs have now become one of the most successful carnivores on earth. 

The story of dogs began around 2 million years ago (Serpall, 1996) when wolves and other carnivores were known to have inhabited the world. Tracing the origin of the domestic dog is in some ways similar to tracing the evolutionary tale of the hominids. It feels as though wolves, then dogs have been co-existing with humans, since We diverged from the great ape. And as We developed, so did the wolf. 

Scientific evidence, particularly DNA analysis, which is still very young, has been combined with our existing archaeological knowledge to form a clearer picture, of the origins of the domestic dog, than we have had in the past. We now know that dogs evolved from wolves between 12 and 40000 years ago (Hare and Woods, 2013), but the story began long before this change. 

The earliest evidence of our closer relationship with canids was found over ½ million years ago. Juliet Clutton-Brock research (in Serpell, 2004) found evidence of wolves associated to hominids in China, France and England between 150000 and 300000 years ago. It is, perhaps,  likely around this time that early man shared similar feeding sites and may have hunted in some form of symbiosis with the wolf. But, it is much more recent when we see the first sign of dogs co-existing with humans. 

The first appearance of the domestic dog has now been identified, through DNA evidence, by Wang et al. (2016) at around 33000 years ago. At this time, the dog became a different species. However, it is likely that this new canid were more a ‘dog-wolf’ and not the domestic or tame dog we see today. 

Archaeological evidence of the domestic dog is dated to around 15000 years. It is also at this time that we start to see migration of dogs out of South East Asia. Scientists (Wang, 2016) are convinced that all dogs emerged from this area and then spread across the globe with homo sapiens, who emerging from the last ice age, to searched west as the ice sheet receded. In this period, skeletal forms were showing dog-like characteristics. Examples of dogs have been found in many locations including Turkey and Germany (see Serpall, 1996).

According to Fogle (1990), evidence of breed variations started to appear in Egyptian pottery around 7,500 years ago.  Since then, until the present day, breed differences are found in all locations across the world, specifically where Man has had her influence. 

Why dogs emerged is still a speculative question. The general consensus (e.g. Coppinger and Coppinger, 2002) believe that tameness was responsible for the divergence. This tameness led to scavenger behaviour and consequently changes not only the physiology, but also the behavioural traits of the wolf to create the dog. The longitudinal study by Belyaev, reported in Dugatkin (2017), demonstrated that selecting for tameness only, could quickly change the characteristics of the silver-fox to a more dog like form. Dogs, therefore, are considered to have slowly changed through self-selection to dog; progressively over several thousand years. 

Without doubt tameness influenced the development of the wolf into a dog, but it is still not clear how much of these changes were based on human intervention or environmental changes. Roger Tabor (Tennant ND), believes that initially, wolves self-selected based on their tameness and it wasn’t until more recently that humans started to develop dogs based on their shape or behaviour (Parker et al.). Tabor (in Tennant N.D), felt breed diversity, as we see it today, is largely due to human intervention, but this view doesn’t explain how we had dogs such as the Pekinese in ancient China, which are clearly different from the early form of dogs with the Spitz type look. Clearly modification to the domestic dog was taking place several thousand years ago, but it’s unknown if humans were shaping these changes artificially or not.

Another long held view is that dogs emerged during the Natufian period of human development. This period was around 15000 years ago. During this period humans started to settle and form communities, which led us to believe in a ‘scavenger’ theory. However, DNA evidence is dating dogs’ divergence from wolves back as far as 40000 years. So, we must now consider the conditions during this period of Man’s evolution. How sophisticated were cultures then? Were they more advanced than we think? Did changes occur due to the environment? More scientific evidence is now needed to explore and also test our assumption on the evolution of the dog, to determine whether it was nature or nurture, or a bit of both that resulted in the domestic dog.

In my opinion, I don’t think that we can rule out human intervention in the origin of the domestic dog taking place much earlier than our current thinking. I believe that our ingenious human nature saw wolves as an early ‘technology’; as a food source[1]; as a fabric for clothing; and as a hunting aid. The very nature and tameness of puppies would have also been enjoyable for children as an early toy or companion. I feel that this versatility would have made wolves popular, to homo sapiens, so attracting wolves into the community may well have been a behaviour of these early people. 

Tameness in wolves may have brought them closer to civilisations, but many other reasons, not just scavenging, may have produced the domestic dog. This view is mere speculation until we have clearer understanding of how the dog diverged from the wolf 40000 years ago. Further evidence is needed to fill this gap in our understanding. 

5 facts about the evolution of the domestic dog

· The dog evolved from wolves

· Evolutionary split occurred around 30-40000 years ago

· Dogs evolution started in South East Asia and spread globally 

· Tameness was the single cause of dog’s transformation 

· Nurture and Nature have created the global diversity of the modern dog

[1]Evidence suggest that wolves were a food source by early man (Fogle, 1992)