Is My Dog a Wolf in Dog’s Clothing?

Photo by Mark Dumont / CC BY 2.0

Photo by Mark Dumont / CC BY 2.0

We sometimes hear animal behaviorists and dog trainers refer to characteristics of the wolf in attempt to understand and explain dog behavior, but is it really that simple? Probably not. Yes, it’s true our modern day best friend, the dog, is a descendant from the grey wolf and shares at least 99.96 percent of its genes, but a lot has happened during the 15,000 years or more of canine domestication by our own ancestors. We’re curious to understand more about our dogs and their instinctual behavior, and there is something kind of cool about knowing there’s a little bit of wolf running through even the smallest Chihuahua, but can we make assumptions about modern dog behavior by observing the behavior of the wolf?

The challenge with contrasting wolf and dog behavior is twofold. First, most wolf behavior studies have been conducted on wolves living in captivity; however, captive wolves behave quite differently than wolves living in the wild with little or no human contact. The assumptions made about wolf behavior based on captive wolves, may not be entirely accurate. Secondly, the process of domestication itself changed many wolf-like behaviors as hundreds of breeds were developed over time for a wide range of purposes. As we know, domesticated dogs come in a vast number of shapes, sizes and colors with various skill sets and temperaments.

One theory about how our ancestors helped to domesticate dogs suggests they kept and influenced the breeding of the most docile wolves in order to create the qualities we most enjoy in our pet dogs today. They desired wolves that could be easily led and trained, were less aggressive, more social and were not fearful of man. Wolves that were less likely to challenge man’s leadership could be more easily trained to perform a task or become a friendly companion. Interestingly, those desired qualities are found in wolf pups. Neoteny is a term that describes adult animals that evolve to retain many of their juvenile traits, which is what our ancestors have created with the modern day dog, a wolf that has retained its pup-like qualities. Dogs traits such whining, barking, submissiveness, playfulness and being free of fear exist in wolf pups, but are rarely observed in adult wolves. Even the physical wolf pup traits of having smaller and shorter teeth, less powerful jaws and shorter muzzles are found in most domesticated dogs.

So, your dog may not be a wolf in dog’s clothing, but there is a little bit of the wolf in each of our dogs, a wolf pup that is!

Bret Michaels, Rockin’ Pet Accessory Designer


Yes, he’s a rocker, but there’s a lot more to the Poison frontman Bret Michaels than you may realize.  His wide range of titles include singer, songwriter, musician, actor, director, producer, winner of Celebrity Apprentice 3 and more recently, pet accessory designer.  Huh?  Yes, Bret Michaels has been busy designing his Pets Rock Collection of toys, collars, leashes, apparel, beds, bowls and of course, bandanas, sold exclusively at PetSmart stores.

Bret has always had a close relationship with his pets and they each hold a special place in his heart, especially a Siberian Husky named Nicholas who may have saved his life by alerting his manager during an episode when his blood sugar level had dropped dangerously low.  He currently owns two German Shepherds named Diesel and Phoenix along with a couple of horses and his pet rats, Harley and Charlie.  It’s no wonder Bret has a strong love of dogs and is excited to put his energy into this project.

As if we didn’t have enough reasons to like and respect the rocker, Bret recently made a generous donation to Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that provides trained assistance dogs to returning veterans and people with disabilities.

If you want your pet to rock out with some of Bret’s affordable, rock-themed accessories, head to your nearest PetSmart store or order online.  My personal favorite is the Ballistic Arm Squeaker Dog Toy, but look for new additions to his line this summer and a line of cat toys called Look what the cat dragged in coming this fall.

10 Tips Before You Start Training Your Dog


Tips before you start training your dogSo, you got a new puppy in the home or just adopted an adult dog. Don’t worry if you have a couple of chewed up shoes or a few spots on the carpet, now is the perfect time to turn things around and get started on your dog training routine. Training your dog doesn’t have to be just another chore added to your long list of things to do. It only takes a few minutes out of your day and you’ll have fun watching your new dog learn commands as she works hard to please you. In the end, you can sit back, relax and be proud while you enjoy your well-behaved dog. In the meantime, here are some tips before you start training your dog that will make the process go a lot smoother.

1. Be in the right mood.
Always work with your dog when you’re relaxed and in a positive frame of mind. If you’re tired or in a bad mood, you can become frustrated or impatient, which is not good for you or your dog. Yelling at your dog or using punishment while training is counter-productive and will cause your dog to distrust you.
2. Train when your dog is in the right state of mind.
Puppies can have short attention spans, so train her in an area without distractions and choose a time when she’s not overly energetic or excited. If the training session is not going well, try exercising her for a short time or quit and try again a little later.
3. Use what motivates your dog.
Luckily, most dogs are motivated by food which makes things a lot easier for us who are doing the training, but don’t forget dogs are also motivated by affection and praise.
4. Use training treats.
When using food as motivation, small training treats are a great way to reward your dog without giving her a lot of excess calories. She’ll work just as hard for a small tasty treat as she will for a larger treat. If she doesn’t seem particularly interested in treats, check out these tips!.
5. Start simple.
Start with simple commands such as Sit or Come to help build confidence, then slowly move on to more difficult commands. Teach one command at a time until she’s got it down, then reinforce the mastered commands as you teach new ones by finding ways to work them into your dog’s daily routine.
6. Get everybody on-board.
Make sure you and other family members use commands consistently so your dog doesn’t get confused. Also, make sure family members aren’t unintentionally rewarding unwanted behavior and that everyone is on-board with training the dog.
7. Use the right tone of voice.
It’s important to use the right tone of voice for different commands. Use an upbeat and energetic tone of voice when giving commands that are active, such as Come. Use an authoritative tone of voice when training passive commands that require some restraint, such as the Sit, Stay or Down commands. Dogs also love animated praise and sometimes react just as much to the tone of what we’re saying as the actual words themselves.
8. Check your timing.
Timing is everything when training a dog. Give rewards immediately when you get the result you are looking for. Dogs have a short memory for associating actions with rewards. If you withhold or hesitate when giving rewards or praise, you may accidentally be praising and reinforcing something entirely different.
9. Be patient.
Work with your dog for short periods of time, keeping the training sessions light and fun. Quit before she gets tired or overwhelmed. Often, during your first session when teaching a new command, your dog might seem thoroughly confused. That’s all right, try again each day and she’ll soon connect the dots.
10. Keep working.
Don’t be discouraged when she listens perfectly at home, but not in the park or around other people or dogs. Once she’s trained where it’s quiet at home, you’ll still need to build on that training by working with her around distractions.

Having a positive attitude towards training you dog can make the process easy and enjoyable. Yes, even when she grabs that hamburger off the kitchen counter, it’s an opportunity for training. Be patient and consistent and your dog will be soon rewarding you for all your hard work.

For Love of the Dog – Building Love, Trust and Respect


Building love, trust and respectIronically, the same three characteristics that make for healthy human relationships are vital to creating a positive relationship between you and your dog. Love, trust and respect. Developing these qualities will not only make your life a lot easier, but you’ll end up with a happy, well-adjusted dog that loves, trusts and respects you as well.

Love. Loving your dog starts with making sure you’re meeting his needs. Provide high quality food and water, comfortable shelter (preferably inside the home with you), adequate veterinary care, proper socialization, exercise and lots of quality time spent with you. It’s easy to give our dogs love and affection, but we often unknowingly give that affection at the wrong time, like when our dogs are overly excited. Create a strong bond with your dog by giving praise and affection to reward desirable, positive behavior.

Trust. Your dog looks to you for direction and leadership. Trust that your dog wants to learn what’s expected of him and communicate that by being fair and consistent in the way that you and all your family members relate to the dog. Don’t break your dog’s trust by physically bullying or punishing him, being inconsistent with the rules or punishing him after the fact. Lead with fairness, positive energy and a quiet confidence and he will trust you and view you as a calm and competent leader. Assume the role of leader and protector so your dog doesn’t feel like he has to. For more information about trust, check out the post 6 Simple Ways to Build Trust With Your Dog.

Respect. Even though we have a lot in common with our canine companions and at times they seem to have human emotions, we have to respect that they deserve to be understood on their level. Since dogs don’t have the range of complex human emotions, we shouldn’t expect them to relate to us on a human level. Instead, when we view circumstances from their perspective and communicate in the language they understand, we can create a stronger relationship and more easily fix or redirect behavioral issues. Respect that your dog’s breed (or mix of breeds) can greatly affect his behavior and you may need to provide him with breed related activities to keep him happy and fulfilled.

Send your comments about how building love, trust and respect play a role or influence the relationship you have with your dog.