We are still a long way from learning to speak “dog,” but there are ways in which we can learn to better understand their particular language. We can observe them intently for long periods of time, making notes on their body movements and vocalizations, or we can look glean some understanding from the language of their ancestors, the wolves.
Scientific evidence strongly suggests a close relationship between domestic dogs and wolves. While it remains obvious that they are all member of the species Canus lupus, over time, the constants have changed in their appearance and in much of their behaviors. While artificial selection and domestication have enhanced various characteristics that we have deemed desirable in our companion animals, that has left many other characteristics and traits to fall by the wayside or to be suppressed when they cannot be bred out entirely (for instance, clipping pendulous ears or docking tails).
Nonetheless, whether dogs are direct descendants of some species of wolf, or are related through a common lineage that is extinct today -- a missing link, perhaps -- the behavior patterns that are present in dogs have been observed in wolves as well. Close studies that have been made on wolves’ communication and behavior can greatly enlighten us on dog behavior.
The articles linked below acknowledges the detailed research that has been performed by wildlife biologists, animal behaviorists and ethologists on the behavior and communication of wolves.
Image: Gareth Williams / via Flickr