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  • Writer's pictureLisa Evans

Where does my dog come from?

You may answer this question with such phrases as "the pet store" or "Kaiapoi" but I mean to take you on a journey with the aim of tricking you in to learning more about canines so get comfortable.

Chimpanzees did not turn in to people and then cease to exist. Both Chimps and Humans exist at the same time, have a lot of the same DNA and even share some traits (ever seen a person throw a tantrum?!) Though there are many similarities, there are plenty of differences too. Apply this same way of thinking to our dogs. Wolves are wolves and dogs are dogs, one did not come from the other. Somewhere along the way there was a common ancestor before branching off in to separate species over many many many many years (x lots).

No one knows for sure how dogs came to be. Did this common ancestor choose to go to people? Did people choose and tame this common ancestor? What's most likely is a combination approach over thousands of years from sharing the same harsh and changing environment because of basic resources for survival such as food, water, and shelter. As the environment put pressure on the creatures of the earth, some species flourished while others did not.

What we know for sure is that canines have been around for thousands of years.

The first undisputed evidence of dog's existence is a jaw bone dated 14,000 years ago. There are other proposed dates from various bone fragments, footprints and genetic tracing which go back 27,000 to 135,000 years ago but these are still up for debate.

As we domesticated dogs, they became friendlier towards people. They became a larger part of our lives to the point of changing what they can live off. Wolves are carnivores (meat eaters), but these canines who evolved with humans – their nutritional needs changed. They have a gene which enables them to process foods that wolves can’t, they are omnivores (basically eat anything.) The process of domestication also changed how these dogs looked even before people understood the why and how. Regardless, the more involved we got, the bigger impact we had on the creation of dogs as we know them today.

Decades ago we purposely bred dogs for jobs to make our lives easier. From herding sheep, to pulling carts, to pest control. This created more breeds than existed previously.

In much more recent times we bred them solely based on looks. The "call of the wild" doesn't even come in to it when people are so in control of some breeds, that these dogs don't even have sex to reproduce! They reproduce due to human created technology based on human assessment and awards. Some of these dogs don't give birth naturally either, humans have become involved in that too with C-sections more common now than ever before.

Many breeds that exist today would not survive in the wild of today – let alone the wild environment that existed thousands of years ago.

So why should you, with your perfectly domesticated puppy or dog, care about any of this?

Every dog is an individual but at the end of the day, they are a dog trying to fit in an incredibly fast changing human world with very human expectations. There are pressures they are not yet able to cope with - even a few generations is not enough to really change what they are at the base level no matter what they physically look like and what we want them to be. We owe it to the species we've created to get smarter and not tougher, to understand the influence we have on them and learn kinder ways to train our domesticated predators.

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