Dogs Kill Baby 2: Have We Bred Out The Wolf?

On the 8th February I did a post called Dogs Kill Baby 1. I called it 1 as the news tend to report such things in batches, and today be have Dogs on Rampage. But more important to this site I felt there was more to say.

The standard response when tragically children are mauled or killed, is the warning that children and dogs should not be left alone together. Is this correct or is there a deeper problem?

In the Genepools and Co-evolution post, which can be found under the Dog Ecology Category, I included a link to scientific work on the co-evolution of humans and dogs. For those who want to read it the article, which I can recommend is here.

A simple summary is the emergence modern man and the separation of the dog from the wolf occurred at the same time, about 135,ooo years ago. There is a co-evolution of both species. The wolf was a pack animal with complex social organisation. Sharing of food, co-operative hunting strategies and the sharing of the protection of the young, amongst others. Within the pack it didn’t matter whose the young were they would be looked after by all members. 

So at around 135,000 years ago there was close co-operation between wolves which became the first dogs. Not in the scientific paper linked to, but in other associated theories, there is the idea that these early wolf/dogs were important in the development of human culture by their role in child rearing. These were wild and dangerous times so the children would be at risk from other predators. The care and protection of the children would require a considerable time input and distraction from other duties that the early humans would have to carry out.

Until the arrival of the wolf/dog into their camps and family units. The animals would naturally warn of, or attack other predators that posed a threat to the camp. The children were protected by the close interaction of the wolf/dogs. With less supervision required by the humans, they could devote their time to other duties, contributing to the build up of culture and skills which lead all the way to us. Without the incorporation of the wolf/dog into the camps, human culture would not have been able to evolve so rapidly.

The protection of the young within the family/pack/unit being a natural instinct of the wolf. Conversely if this did not exist then it would have been selected for as a trait by man or the evolution of the dog would not have happened. There would not have been this close relationship and co-evolution between man and dogs, if dogs killed his children.

Though a story Rudyard Kipling wrote about Mowgli, who from a baby was raised by wolves, the concept of children in reality raised by wolves, dogs or other animals is a controversial issue. Though it has remained in mythology, Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome were raised by a wolf.

Whatever the fantasy or reality, we cannot escape from the fact that man has had a close relationship with the wolf/dog. A relationship which would not have existed if the animals had been a threat to children, as young, part of ‘their’ pack. In truth the opposite should be true, the close relationship of man and the wolf/dog conferred an evolutionary advantage for humans.

So what has gone wrong? Has society bred dogs so specialised and away from that nurturing, co-operative and inclusive ‘pack caring’ bloodline of the wolf that came into those early camps,  the instinct for protection has been lost. Has society also forgot how we socialise and interact with the dog and work together within a family unit that a deeper communication has been lost?

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