How Did Wolves Become Dogs (8 Theories of Evolution)

Updated in May, 2024 | By John Robert
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How wolves became domesticated dogs. This is a question that has been asked for centuries and one that still remains a mystery to scientists to this day.

But what we do know is the transition from wild animals to domesticated animals was a gradual process that took place over thousands of years.

wolf to dog

Let’s explore some possible theories on how wolves became dogs!

Wolves are perhaps one of the most iconic animals in history. With their dramatic appearances, wolf mythology has persisted throughout the centuries being depicted as everything from a wise mentor to a bloodthirsty animal with no remorse or moral compass.

Possible theories on how wolves became dogs

However, no matter what your personal beliefs on wolves, there is no doubt that we owe a large part of our culture and society to these animals.

One thing we do know for sure is the transition from wild animals to domesticated animals was a gradual process that took place over thousands of years. We see this pattern around the world with everything from dogs and cats to cattle  and pigs.

1st theory on how wolves became dogs

One of the most accepted theories is that wolves started to associate with humans because they were following their primary prey, herbivores like deer and bison. Wolves are largely predators but there are certain situations where they would go after prey that is too small or too fast.

2nd theory on how wolves became dogs

Another idea is that humans were actively hunting wolves and they learned to avoid them. Wolves are naturally wary animals which would have made it difficult for humans to capture them for food or pelts.

It is believed that the wolves that managed to escape being hunted by humans were more likely to hang around and would have been taken in by the humans.

3rd theory on how wolves became dogs

The idea that wolf cubs were adopted by human families is one of the most interesting theories about how wolves became dogs. It’s very possible that hunters or orphaned wolf cubs were actually brought back to human settlements where they were taken care of and raised as a pet.

4th theory on how wolves became dogs

Another idea is that humans might have actually started to breed wolves for their desirable traits such as more docile temperaments which made them easier to work with.

Humans already had some knowledge about breeding animals from our early herding and farming practices which over time may have allowed us to transform wolves into dogs.

5th theory on how wolves became dogs

Another possible idea is that domestication was unintentional. If a pack of wolves happened to go into an area where humans were actively hunting for prey, it’s possible they were chased off and forced to find new hunting grounds.

This would have forced the wolves to come in contact with humans more often and it’s even possible they started to take up residence near us without any direct interaction.

6th theory on how wolves became dogs

One of the most interesting theories is that humans might have taken advantage of wolf packs instead of trying to avoid them.

If a pack of wolves could be approached without being attacked, there is no reason why humans couldn’t interact with the pups by giving food in exchange for their protection or friendship. This could have even led to an agreement where humans allowed wolves to come into human settlements and take raw food scraps while the humans would also get bones that they could use to make tools and weapons.

7th theory on how wolves became dogs

Yet another idea is that the process was a lot more random than we might think. Wolves would naturally come near human settlements because of our trash heaps and could be fed by humans who were simply trying to get rid of food waste. It’s possible that some of these wolves would have been allowed to stay in the settlements and it’s even likely that their pups would have also been tolerated. We know from history there were many cultures who thought wild animals could be tamed through feeding them human food, showing affection, and keeping them around humans. This gradual process may have continued until a domesticated wolf was born.

8th theory on how wolves became dogs

We know that humans have had close ties with canines for thousands of years, but some people believe wolves might not actually be the ancestors of today’s domestic dogs.

One idea is that our canine companions were scavengers instead of predators and started sticking around human settlements to eat scraps of food.

At some point, these scavengers would have been fed by humans and allowed to interact with human children. Once this started happening often enough, a domestication process may have begun where the dogs were raised among the men and grew more accustomed to them until they could be fully domesticated into today’s pets.


The dogs evolved from grey wolves in Eurasia as per studies. Genetic studies demonstrate that over thousands of years, wolves gradually lost their fear of humans and came closer to villages.

Wolves were then able to start scavenging for food near these settlements, which eventually led them to live among us as pets – becoming what we now know today as domesticated dogs!

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John Robert

John Robert is a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT). Owner of the most gorgeous dog on the planet, developed an interest in dog nutrition after finding the best food for his pet's allergies. The most impactful motive of his life is educating dog owners about dog nutrition and improving the lives of pets.