Findings from the study of wolves

How much wolf is still in the dog?

It’s no big secret. Dogs and wolves share a common ancestor. But how much do dogs and their wild relatives still have in common? Genetic analysis shows that the dog was domesticated 18,000 to 32,000 years ago in Europe. The development of different types and breeds has its origin some 16,000 years ago in what today is Southern China.

As it adapted to people, their environment and their ways, many changes took place in the wolf while it developed into the dog. Man started to selectively breed the dog to suit his own ideas and objectives, with the emphasis on skills such as hunting, protecting and guarding.

Genetically speaking, dogs and the wolves living today differ very little, but there are some minor differences that mean that a wolf can no longer be made out of the dog. One of the biggest changes resulting from the lifestyle of today’s dog as it lives side by side with us is the diet. The menu of the domesticated dog has always contained human food, generally nothing more than leftovers as people rarely had spare food to share with their dogs.

The dog has adapted its digestive system to human food. His teeth became smaller than those of his wild relatives, and his digestive tract became much less robust. For example, some nutritional components, such as bones or skin, quickly became a problem for dogs.

A recent study from Uppsala (Sweden) shows that the digestive tracts of dogs and wolves differ in their ability to digest starch, i.e. carbohydrates. The gene in dogs that is responsible for metabolising starches exhibits much greater activity than that of the wolf. This is unsurprising since grain and starch have been on the menu of both man and dog for millennia.

 Dogs are now easily able to digest grain, in contrast to wolves. But the wolf does utilise the pre-digested roughage from the digestive tract of his prey. So he is not solely carnivorous. He can switch to fruit, grasses and roots, depending on what food is available, as muscle meat alone would not meet all of a wolf’s needs in nature.

Thus, although wolf and dog are carnivores, i.e. meat-eaters, in the classification of living creatures, from the nutritional viewpoint, both are carniomnivores, i.e. both meat-eaters and omnivores. Although animal proteins are extremely important for both, carbohydrates and roughage are also vital in the same way for dog and wolf. A modern, optimally formulated food for today’s dogs does not necessarily have to be protein-based. Much more important is that it takes into account the animals’ actual needs, which have developed over thousands of years. The ideal food to suit a modern dog’s lifestyle, activity level and metabolic needs should contain moderate amounts of protein and fat, as well as highly digestible, easily processed carbohydrate. Ideally, all of this should be available in the form of recipes based on biologically diverse ingredients and featuring a unique combination of the very best herbs and other essential, health-giving components. You’ll find all of this in our Happy Dog Supreme range with its unique Happy Dog Natural Life Concept.

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