We refer to the domestication of dogs, or wolves, as a conscious turning point in the relationship between dogs and man. However, according to new research, it is unlikely that humans domesticated wolves directly. Even if wolves are taken care of by humans as pups, it would require round-the-clock effort to re-wire their instincts. Wolves older than two weeks can not be tamed by humans, a fact which creates a large problem for the human-domestication hypothesis. Humans living in small groups did not have the time necessary to devote to this effort. And after wolves open their eyes and have been fed by their mother, they would have difficulty socializing with humans.
So if humans didn’t domesticate wolves, who did? Most likely, it was the wolves themselves. As human settlements grew in size, the amount of surplus food and trash grew. It would be in the best interest of wolves to take advantage of this food source, and to do so would mean being comfortable around humans. The wolves who felt most comfortable close to humans would get the food, and they would pass that trait down to their offspring. As wolves and humans began to work together – wolves leading hunting trips, for example – these traits became stronger. So today, thousands of years after the last ice age, we have man’s best friend.