Doggy Bags

Dog underneath table

Why do dogs WOLF down our leftovers?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Humans eat meat. Dogs’ ancestors – wolves — eat meat. So how did these competitors get friendly and… meet?

Maria Lahtinen and colleagues at the Finnish Food Authority think the answer’s close to home. 

The earliest dog remains are found in northern Eurasia. Archaeologists have dated them to the coldest part of the Ice Age. At that point the environment there was like the Arctic – not much growing! So northern humans lived mostly on meat.

But humans need FATTY meat – not lean! Unlike wolves, we can’t digest just protein. And animals are leanest during the coldest times. Lahtinen’s theory? Humans had to overhunt to get enough calories to survive. And that means…leftovers!

So – win-win! Fatty piece for me, lean piece for the wolf pup! Lahtinen thinks this collaboration helped domesticate wolves into the snuggly, well-trained companions we know today.

Another pork chop, Rex? Here ya go! And your bouncy ball. Hey – NOW looks like I’m the one who’s well-trained!!

Reference: Lahtinen, M., Clinnick, D., Mannermaa, K., Salonen J. S., & Viranta S. (2021). Excess protein enabled dog domestication during severe Ice Age winters. Sci Rep 11, 7