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Dog DNA tests reveal dogs to be much closer to wolves than originally thought

How Much Of Your Dog’s DNA is Wolf? (Hint: Almost All of It)

Your dog is 99.9% wolf.

That might be hard to believe considering the gentle mannerisms and cute looks of some breeds. But most of the dog breeds you see today are as a result of artificial selection by humans.

The first German Shepherd for instance, dates back to one dog that lived just over 100 years ago in Germany.

But all dogs share a genetic history that goes back tens of thousands of years; all the way back to a now-extinct wolf species from which researchers theorize all dogs descended from.

Today, despite having tens of thousands of years to evolve alongside humans, dogs still share most of their DNA with the gray wolf.

They are so similar to a point where they can be bred to create fully healthy hybrid offspring.

In other words, your dog is simply a domesticated wolf.

Dogs and Humans

Dogs have evolved to socialize with humans
Dogs have evolved to socialize with humans -Photo by Michael L. Baird (flickr.bairdphotos.com)

Researchers are not exactly sure when humans started interacting with dogs. Perhaps it started with our hunter gatherer ancestors who had a mutual relationship with dogs when it came to hunting.

But we’ve been with dogs at home for a long time; tens of thousands of years. They were around when we turned to agriculture, which caused an interesting change in their DNA.

Long used to a carnivorous diet, dogs had to adapt to living with agricultural-oriented humans. Their bodies adapted to better digest starch by secreting a start-digesting enzyme called amylase.

But it’s not just their diet that has changed.

Their behavioral tendencies were also affected. Dog’s learnt to socialize and interact with humans.

A modern dog has an incredible ability to sense your emotions and intentions. It knows when you are sad or happy and can understand what you want just from your facial expression.

For all intents and purposes, a modern dog’s social group includes humans (usually its owner and family members).

Dogs have learnt to depend on humans for guidance, instruction, food and sometimes even protection.

The 0.1% of Their DNA

So what is in the 0.1% of a dog’s DNA that makes it so different from wolves.

Part of that 0.1% contains DNA that enables dogs to safely consume starchy diets full of carbohydrates.

Wild gray wolves are still as carnivorous as they were thousands of years ago. Dogs on the other hand are more similar to humans in terms of diet.

Half of that 0.1% changes a dog’s brain structure and function. A dog’s brain is still very similar to that of a wolf with the only difference being that dogs can socialize with humans.

They have formed such a deep bond that a dog in a stressful situation only relaxes when a familiar human is present. The presence of a familiar dog makes no difference.

Essentially, dogs have developed a special part of their brain specifically for living with humans.

Tens of thousands of years of working, hunting and sleeping alongside their masters made this inevitable.

Even dogs raised without human company naturally know to respond to human commands.

Should This Change Anything?

No, not really. It’s just some nice-to-know information to keep in mind when you hear your dog howl like a wolf at night and then lovingly lick your face in the morning.

He’s mostly a wolf who’s nice to you and can eat mostly the same food you do.

If you want to learn more about your dog’s wolf genetics, most dog DNA tests including Embark and DNA My Dog include wolf tests in their genetic testing packages.

See my reviews of the best dog DNA tests to find the best one for you dog.

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About the Author Charles McKnight

I'm just another amateur genealogist investigating my American-Scots-Irish lineage. I built MyFamilyDNATest.com after buying all of the leading DNA tests to discover everything I could about my family history. Hopefully, this site will save you time and demystify the emerging science of DNA-based genealogy, for your family project.

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