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The History of Dogs: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Did you know that dogs are related to wolves? Learn where dogs come from, and how selective breeding over thousands of years made dogs gentle, obedient, and fun to have as pets.

Where do Dogs Come From?

Have you ever seen a puppy so cute and adorable you just couldn't help petting it?

That puppy's parents were both dogs. Their parents were dogs. And their parents were dogs. But if you went back far enough in the puppy's family tree, you'd find wolves.

This pug puppy had a wolf somewhere in its family tree.
pug puppy

It's true! Dogs actually started as wolves. But then they began living with people as pets. In fact, they were the first pets ever. People have had pet dogs for around twelve thousand years. Over thousands of years, wolves got nicer and more gentle, and slowly evolved into dogs. In this lesson, you'll learn all about it.

Dogs Come from Wolves

A long time ago, there weren't any dogs. But there were wolves.

A wolf
wolf

Wolves are very good hunters. They're also very social. Wolves live in packs, and each pack works together as a team to hunt animals to eat. Each pack also has one dominant male who leads the pack.

An animal that hunts well can be useful to people. So people started letting wolves live with them. Some scientists think people raised baby wolves to obey a human leader instead of a wolf leader. Other scientists think that people fed the wolves and so the wolves started liking us. Maybe wolves will do anything for treats, just like dogs do today!

Selective Breeding

Over a long period of time, people trained wolves to be obedient and gentle. Since wolves were so social to begin with, it wasn't that hard. Wolves naturally live in groups, so people just had to train them to live in human groups instead of wolf packs. When people found wolves that were naturally a little more obedient and gentle, they would encourage those wolves to have babies. Then the babies would also be obedient and gentle, like their parents.

This was called selective breeding. In selective breeding, people find animals with some good qualities, like a very gentle personality, and then get those animals to have babies. This takes many generations - wolves having babies over and over again - but over time, the wolves who lived with people started looking and acting less like wild wolves. They were turning into dogs.

This is a Siberian husky dog. You can definitely still see the wolf!
siberian husky

Not all wolves lived with people. Wolves who stayed in the wild bred normally, without the help of humans, so they remained wolves.

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