Behavioral Evidence

Another important source of evidence in favor of the primogenitor status of the wolf is the behavioral similarity between the two canids. Scott (1950) has compiled an ethogram of dog behavior derived from observations of semiferal dogs maintained in open-field enclosures and well-socialized counterparts maintained under laboratory conditions. He then compared these observations with field reports of wolf behavior. Of the 90 behavior patterns exhibited by dogs, all but 19 are also exhibited by wolves. Most of the behaviors not described at the time of Scott's ethogram have been subsequently reported by other observers (Mech, 1970; Fox, 1971). Scott's study demonstrates that the behavior patterns of dogs are very similar to those of wolves.

An interesting example of behavioral parallelism between wild canids and dogs is the play bow——an apparent invitation to play. Bekoff (1977) has observed that the form and function of the play bow is similar among young dogs, coyotes, and wolves. Among canids, the play bow is a stereotypic, "relatively" fixed action pattern signaling playful intentions. Another highly social and affiliative display shared by dogs and wolves is an enthusiastic greeting ceremony in which reciprocal affectionate and solicitous behavior is exchanged between pack members on return from excursions or upon waking from sleep. The behavioral components expressed during these animated displays include facial gestures indicating pleasurable excitement and vigorous tail wagging—the canid equivalent of the human smile.

Besides the ubiquitous play bow and greeting ritual, dogs and wolves share many expressive facial and bodily movements employed to communicate threat and appeasement intentions. These behaviors occur under various social circumstances, but especially during ritualized dominance challenges and squabbles. Rudolph Schenkel (1967) has analyzed in detail the submissive behavior of wolves and dogs. His work is of considerable historical and theoretical importance in the clarification of canid appeasement displays, particularly with regard to the differentiation of active and passive submission behaviors (Fig. 1.4).

Understanding dog behavior rightly begins with a study of wolf behavior. However, a long history of domestication behaviorally segregates dogs from wolves, and one must take care not to overly generalize between the two canids in terms of their respective motivations and behavior patterns.

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